Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/285

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

times a wonderfully elaborate moral code. This is especially true of the Hydah branch of the Thlinkets, who, ethnologically, are the most interesting branch of the Alaska natives. They inhabit Prince of Wales Island, and their haunts are visited yearly by hundreds of tourists. The myths attached to their origins—the stories of the descent of their families, one from the bear, another from the whale, a third from the raven, and so on; and the elaborate totem system resulting therefrom, with far-reaching clan restrictions—have given the Hydahs a special place among the aboriginal peoples. The totem system, with its well-known poles, or carved tree trunks, originated with the Hydahs, but in course of time extended to the rest of the Thlinket group. There were three kinds of carved poles: the historical, the death, and the pedigree, or totem pole, the last giving the line of descent of the mother's family. Children were always known by the totem of their mother. Many of those are still standing, but the combinations of figures of birds and other living things, distorted beyond recognition, are no longer intelligible. The encroachment of modern methods and intercourse with the white races have made the Thlinket group more or less oblivious of the past. The totem system is dying out; even the family totem is falling into disuse. It was the cause of much injustice and suffering owing to the unequal and unjust distribution of poverty. Among the traditions of the Alaskan tribes, resemblances can be traced to certain Biblical narratives—the creation of light, the fall of man, the deluge, the confusion of tongues, the dispersion of races, etc. Polygamy was common in a more or less exaggerated form. In northern Alaska, it is no longer so common, though it sometimes occurs. Matrimony, until ratified by the birth of children, is not looked upon as being indissoluble, but rather as a sort of espousals. There was also a belief in metempsychosis. They held, with most savages, that it is a strict duty to revenge insult or injury. The hardships to which females were subjected at critical periods are appalling, and may explain their premature old age.

VIII. Missions.—(1) Russian Mission.—Christianity was introduced into Alaska in 1794. A few spasmodic attempts were made prior to that date by Russian traders, notably Glottof, but according to the candid chronicler Veniaminof already quoted, it was not so much Christian ardour as business considerations that induced the Russians to persuade the Aleuts to accept baptism. The converted natives were always more manageable. They became attached, to a certain extent, to their godfathers, and gave their trade exclusively to them. The first serious attempt to Christianize the Alaskan tribes was made by Shelikof, one of the organizers of the Russian American fur company, who, in 1787, petitioned the Russian synod to send missionaries to convert the Aleuts. He promised to provide them with transportation, and to support them in their new field. In a ukase, dated June, 1793, Catherine II instructed the metropolitan Gabriel to select the best material for the mission, and in 1794, a band of ten, eight ecclesiastics and two laymen, under the guidance of Archimandrake Ivassof, left St. Petersburg for Okhotsk, whence they sailed for Kodiak. This large island was for some years the head-quarters of the Russian-American Fur Company, and from it the monks dispersed in different directions under the protection of the fur hunters. Makar proceeded to Unalaska and proceeded to baptize the natives; another, Juvenal, laboured among the natives of Kodiak island and those on Cook's Inlet. This missionary was murdered two years later for trying to put down polygamy. He was a man of great energy, and did more to spread the Russian doctrines than the rest of his companions. In 1798, Ivassof, the leader, was promoted to the rank of Archbishop of Irkutsk, in Siberia, but was lost at sea the following year. Missionary work remained in abeyance until the arrival of Alexander Baranof, who asked for a priest for Sitka, the new headquarters of the Fur Company. In 1816, Sobolof, the first Russian-Greek missionary, apparently, who laboured among the Thlinkets, reached southeastern Alaska. In 1823 Ivan Veniaminof, the most distinguished of the Russian ecclesiastics in Alaska, known as the "Enlightener of the Aleuts", arrived in Unalaska. During his career of nearly thirty years, he displayed intense zeal. He was instrumental in spreading Christianity over a vast extent of territory, visiting not only the Aleutian Islands, but all the coast of the mainland from Bristol Bay to the Kuskokwim. Veniaminof was a man of exceptional ability. He mastered the Aleut and Thlinket languages, translated portions of the New Testament, composed a catechism and hymnal, and began an exhaustive research into the traditions, beliefs, superstitions, etc. of the nations of the Aleutian group. In 1840, after the division of the diocese of Irkutsk, he was consecrated Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, and assumed, after the Russian custom, the name of Innocentius. During his sojourn in southeastern Alaska, he devoted himself with great zeal to the conversion of the Thlinkets. He established at Sitka a seminary for the training of natives and half-breeds for the priesthood, an institution that was maintained for many years. In 1852, he was transferred to Yakutsk, and died in 1879, Metropolitan of Moscow. Veniaminof, of whom there exists a biography, is highly venerated as a man and a writer. Petroff says of him, however, that the success of his work of conversion was only temporary and was confined altogether to the time of his presence among the natives. In 1859, Archimandrite Peter, rectory of the seminary at Sitka, was made bishop of that place. He was succeeded, in 1867, by Bishop Paul. In 1870 his successor, Bishop John, took the title of Bishop of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. An important event was the transfer, in 1872, of the head-quarters of the Russian missions from Sitka to San Francisco. Bishop Nestor was sent thither, in 1879, in charge of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands; he was lost at sea in 1882. In 1888 Bishop Vladimir was appointed to the same office; in 1891 Bishop Nicholas; in 1898, Bishop Tikhon; and in 1904 Bishop Innocent. In 1893 Russian orphanages were opened at Sitka, Kodiak, and Unalaska; and in 1894 a Russian church and school at Juneau. Parochial schools are attached to every Russian church. The Report on Education for 1903 (2352–53) enumerates in Alaska thirty schools, with 740 pupils, and adds that there are sixteen parishes in Alaska with 10,225 parishioners. The Czar still maintains a salaried hierarchy there, but his influence is destined to dwindle away before American missionary endeavors.

(2) Protestant Missions.—Several of the Protestant sects, notably the Moravian, Presbyterian, Swedish, Evangelical, Congregational, and Episcopal, are at work in various parts of Alaska. Their mission stations extend up the Yukon and Kuskowim rivers, and along the main coast as far north as Cape Prince of Wales and Point Barrow. The Presbyterians, who landed in that country in 1878, have been the most successful. They have strongly organized missions in southeastern Alaska. The late Governor of the territory, John B. Brady, was a Presbyterian missionary for years; and the Rev. Sheldon Jackson, another Presbyterian missionary, is Superintendent of education for the territory.

(3) Catholic Missions.—Prior to the cession of Alaska to the United States, no Catholic priest had sojourned in the territory. In 1872, Francis Mercier, chief agent of the Alaska Commercial Company at