YAKUTAT (Historic Information)
Cros Sound is the northerly end of the "inside passage." On the southward is the picturesque timber-covered island fringed coast home of the Siwash. To the northward is five hundred miles of islandless ocean, beating at the prccipi tous foot of a Greenlandish glaciated plateau, indented by Lituya. Dry. Icy and Yakutat Bays.
Lituya is as tide-washed, surf-beaten and dangerous now as it was when La Perouse visited it in 1786, who had the misfortune of losing some of his men, to whom he erected a monument on Monument Island. Near by some place, prospects give promise of a good return, but to get to them with provisions and get in and out of the bay safely is a greater chance than even the most daring miner cares to take. The few Indians that live there have not improved since La Perouse described them. Dixon, who stopped there in 1787. verified (he reports of his French predecessor, and one of the miners working there now turnished to me a full report of native life to date, which is little if any better and too shocking for publication. Dry Bay, seventy-five miles north of Lituya, and Icy Bay, the same distance northwest of Yakutat, hardly deserve space here.
Yakutat Bay has been a trading post for white traders during the last hundred years, and for savages indefinitely longer. It is the home of the hair seal, for which natives of the north, south, coast and interior come. Athabascan and Thlinkit, Aleut and Esquimaux considered it the terminus of their sojourn from home.
The result of this comingling of natives is perhaps the cause of the difference between the Vakutat Indian and other natives they are a combination of all others. They show some of the copper color of the interior Athabascan. Some of the round face, yellow complexion and oblique eyes of the Monoglian-Siwash and Aleut-Labrets, and customs of the Esquimaux and the vices of them all. They now build, and for as far back as we have record, built, large single-room houses, as do the Siwash, and lived in them in a sort of communistic Esquimaux manner. i heir basket weaving is a link between the coarser work of the Siwash and finer work of the Aleut. Their religion, if they ever had any, is a mongrel like themselves. They do not have totems and badges and long ceremonies, nor hold certain animals loo sacred for food, as the Siwash do.
About all the first navigators and traders called at Yakutat. and each applied a new name. Before them the natives in different parts of Alaska applied names of their own selection, but the name surviving is the most suitable, as it is the bay of the Yakutat Indian. Monti Bay, Admiralty Bay or Bering Bay would fail to convey the local color that is included in the word Yakutat.
One of the Russian convict colonies was planted here on the site of Mulgrave in 1 796, the remains of which, like the villages of the Indians who destroyed it in 1805, lie rotting and obliterated.
The village of Yakutat near the old settlement has been and is of some commercial importance. Mr. Mills' store, the Simpson mill, cannery, store and railroad, and the ocacsional call of a boat disturb the caressing spirit of Morpheus. A trip up the little railroad, which is the only fish railroad in the world, to the cannery and to the site of the Indian and Russian settlements will satisfy the tourist ordinarily. But the nature lover will marvel at the glaciers and glaciers, the bobbing heads of the hair seal, the roar and grinding of the bergs coming down from Disenchantment Bay; the tents and bark huts of the Indians, where the women render seal fat, scrape skins, etc., while the men kill a supply of seal lor the coming season. The seal furnishes oil for fuel, light and cooking. In fact, it answers all the purposes of lard, butter, coal oil and molasses. The mission-taught Indian lad on graduation day would prefer the rancid seal oil to maple molasses on his pancakes, or anything else for that matter. It is rubbed in. warmed in, smoked in and fed in to the Indian from birth to death. Its use to the native is greater than all other animals or fish, not excepting the salmon.
Malaspina, an Italian seeking the Northwest Passage in 1 792 for Spain, thought he had found it when he entered Yakutat Bay, the upper end of which he named Disenchantment Bay. One of the arms of the latter is named Russell Fiord, in honor of Israel C. Russell, a glacier expert who examined it very closely on return from his attempt to ascend Mount St. Elias in 1891. In Malaspina's time the glacier must have been lower and in one mass, while in Russell's time it was in three divisions, named Dalton, Hubbard and Nunatak, and still is retreating as all glaciers on the Pacific are doing. Here are polar ice caps in sight from a coast with a moderate climate; Alps that would make Switzerland look like a toyland. within easy reach of everyone, and a hunter's paradise at a moderate cost. Why go abroad when you can explore country and ascend peaks never tread upon by man?