METLAKAHTLA (Historic Alaska Information)
From Ketchikan the Seattle boats usually go to Metlakahtla, but a feu miles' distant on Annett Island. The Indian development at New Bella Bella. Sitka and Kodiak is remarkable, but here it is marvelous.
An hour's talk with Mr. Duncan will never be forgotten, and two or three days spent waiting for another boat will not be long or regretted.
The cannery, like everything here, is the cleanest in Alaska. The most wonderful chapter in the history of missionary endeavor, in civilizing the Indian, is that relating to the work of Wm. Duncan at Metlakahtla on Annett Island, Alaska. An hour's run from Ketchikan, two from Prince Rupert, six or seven from Wrangell, and three days from Seattle.
Between 1850 and 1860 the Indians, made intemperate by the Hudson Bay Company, then robbed by it, became malicious toward the whites. They were canabals, murderers, polygamists, believed in witchcraft, and had slaves, ate their food raw usually, and lived almost like beasts.
In 1856 Captain Provost, who was patrolling the English waters between Russian and American territory, returned to London and reported this state of affairs and incidentally wrote a newspaper request for missionaries. The result was the equipment of young Duncan from a training school through the Church of England. After a long trip around the Horn and some preparations at Victoria, Mr. Duncan commenced systematically at Fort Simpson.
He was opposed by the Shamen (medicine men and witch doctors): because he interfered with their business; by the Hudson Bay Company, because he destroyed their liquor trade and shameful practices; by the chiefs and influential Indians because he abolished slavery and polygamy; and, most lamentably of all, by his own church, the Church of England, because he knew better than to introduce some of the dogmas and doctrines of that church to his savage converts.
Hardly more than a boy, a stranger to the native language, opposed by every one, but with a real Christian message, inspiration and indomitable courage, he began the herculean task, which from that day to this, under his personal supervision, has evolved these most barbarous savages of the woods to a grade of civilization and Christianity that will compare favorably with any village in North America of 1,500 population, in Christianity, temperance, industry and integrity.
Their homes, buildings, streets and general appearance have the honor of being better than any other Indian village known, and far superior to some of the white villages in Alaska and elsewhere, for that matter.
On May 27th, 1862, six large canoe loads of Indians joined the colony on Metlakahtla Island in Canada, and many others rapidly followed, increasing their number to about a thousand. They had a church, school, cannery, soap factory and other industries. This place was about seventeen miles from Port Simpson, on the location of an ancient Tsimpsean village, of which tribe the settlement is mostly composed, and the famous Legaic was their chief. I he members subscribed to the following rules:
1. To give up Ahlied or Indian deviltry.
2. To cease calling in Shamen, or medicine men, when sick.
3. To cease gambling.
4. To cease giving away their property for display (potlatches).
5. To cease painting their faces.
6. To cease indulging in intoxicating drinks.
7. To rest on the Sabbath.
8. To attend religions instruction.
9. To send their children to school. 10. To be cleanly.
11. To he industrious.
12. To he peaceful.
13. To build neat houses.
14. To pay the village tax.
Several authors have published a letter, written early by Mr. Duncan to Sir James Douglass, which with reference to paying taxes, says in part: "On New Years Day the male inhabitants came cheerfully forward to pay the village tax, which I had proposed to levy annually, viz.: One blanket or two and one hall dollars for such as had attained manhood, and one shirt or one dollar for such as had approached manhood. Our revenue this year amounts to one green, one blue and ninety-four white blankets, one pair of white trousers, one dressed elk skin, seventeen shirts and seventeen dollars."
The Bishop of the Church of England tried to compel these people to take the Lord's Supper and observe some of the forms of the church. Mr. Duncan knew that to do so would undo the work already done; the rupture caused a withdrawal from the church and the beginning of a new colony.
The Canadian Government took sides with the church and assisted it in confiscating all their homes, industries and church property. Mr. Duncan, with the assistance of such men as Dr. Sheldon Jackson and Henry Ward Beecher, induced the Government of the United States (under which one can worship according to the dictates of his own conscience) to give them Annett Island, their present home, to which they removed and commenced anew in 1887. Books, good furniture and music may be found in almost every home. Their brass band is known throughout the coast, where it has given concerts.
Although Mr. Duncan is now 77 years old, I found him this summer (1908) in perfect health, inspecting the cannery' and other work, paying the men, caring for the sick, administering the law and expounding the Gospel.
He had solved the problem of civilizing the Indian. What he has done can be done again. He said the most important factors are: "Prohibit the use of intoxicating liquors; allow the Indian to assume Christianity as he abandons his own practices, and third, give him a square deal." Full civilization has been reached from the lowest savagery in the life of one man. without the aid of a church or mission. Through Mr. Duncan these people are paying their own way and working out their own salvation. Mr. Sessions, in his book published in 1890, and Daisy M. Stromstadt, in a neat little pamphlet published in 1907, describe Mr. Duncan's work more fully, and a complete publication to date will be out this summer (1909).