In the negotiations which terminated in the purchase of Alaska in 1867, it was scarcely contemplated that, in acquiring a quitclaim from Russia for an outlying territory equal in area to five of the greater States of the Union, we were also assuming a new race problem of the most interesting character. The long delay of Congress, until 1884, in making any other provision for the government of the country than applying the customs laws, and authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to lease the two small seal islands in Behring Sea, in order to preserve the seal rookeries from total destruction, was a reflex of the indifference of the people of the entire country to this most recent acquisition of federal domain.
Ten years ago, the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church first turned its attention to this new field, and sent its agents into Alaska to break the ground for an entirely new missionary enterprise; and while that body, by reason of its priority in preempting the field, has succeeded in establishing nearly all the mission stations which exist in Southeastern Alaska, other church organizations have followed in its footsteps, and support missions and schools to the westward, and in the great Yukon Valley north of Mt. St. Elias. In addition to these private enterprises undertaken to christianize and civilize the natives, Congress, during the last four sessions, has appropriated a sum of money ranging from forty-five thousand to fifty thousand dollars annually, to be expended in the support of the general education of both the natives and the whites, and placed the same under the control of the Secretary of the Interior and of the Bureau of Education in that department. The amount appropriated for the current fiscal year is fifty thousand dollars. For the purpose of wisely distributing this fund, and carrying out the design of Congress, the Secretary of the Interior constituted a local board of administration, consisting of the governor, the United States district judge, a general agent of education residing in the Territory, and two other residents. This board has no authority, however, beyond making recommendations, — the ultimate execution of the law and the application of the appropriations depending upon the will of the Commissioner of Education, subject to the supreme direction of the Secretary of the Interior. The natives, or Indians of Alaska, as they are frequently and perhaps inaccurately designated, are in no sense subject to the Indian Bureau or the Superintendent of Indian Schools at Washington; and the only recognition of their Indian character by any federal official in the Territory is in the courts, in applying the statutes of the United States which prohibit the sale of certain firearms and intoxicating liquors to them.