This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
There are three separate groups of native Alaskans who make up the population. These three tribes are the Athabascan, the Tlingit, and the Haida. The Athabascan tribal area originally covered most of the Alaskan interior, the Tlingit tribe occupied the southeastern and some coastal areas of Alaska, and the Haida tribe was largely confined to the island of Prince of Wales in southeastern Alaska. The major groups of Alaskan Native Americans and their numerous offshoots now number about 22,000 persons.
The native population also consists of those inappropriately called “Eskimos.” These groups differ in origin from what could be called the Indians. The Eskimos call themselves Inuit (or Inupiat) and Yupik, all of which mean “people,” and number about 50,000. About 8,000 Inuits are Aleuts. The Dawes Act (1924) extended United States citizenship to all Native Americans, including Alaska natives. The Russian Orthodox Church is the predominant religion of the Aleuts, and many other Inuits still practice native religions. A valued collection of Barrow “Eskimo” genealogy is Genealogical Records of Barrow Eskimo Families, compiled by Edna MacLean (Barrow, Alaska: Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, 1971), which is on microfiche at the E.E. Rasmuson Library and the FHL. Many Native Alaskan records are available, including the Juneau Area Agency records (1905–64), which are at the National Archives—Pacific Alaska Region and on microfilm at the FHL. These records include such things as student case files, welfare case files, and individual accounts. Juneau Agency School records (1927–52) include school censuses, applications, village histories, age lists of village children, and village censuses.
Another valuable collection that should be examined when conducting Native Alaskan research is the Oregon Province Archives of the Society of Jesus Alaska Mission Collection. This massive collection of records covers twenty-four Jesuit mission stations in Alaska between 1886 and 1955. The mission records typically generated by these Jesuit missions include diaries, censuses, and church records for the native population.
Mission stations included in this massive collection are Akularak, Andreafsky, Bethel District, Chaniliut, Dillingham, Douglas, Eagle, Fairbanks, Holy Cross, Hooper Bay, Juneau, Kashunuk, Ketchikan, King Island and Little Diomede, Kokrines, Kotzebue, Mountain Village, Nome, Nulato, Pilgrim Springs, Pilot Station, St. Michael, Southeast Alaska (Cordova, Seward, Sitka, Skagway, Valdez, and Wrangell), and Tanana.
This collection is on file at the Oregon Province Archives, Crosby Library, Gonzaga University, in Spokane, Washington, with microfilm copies available. For a guide to the microfilm version of these collections, refer to Robert C. Carriker, Jennifer Ann Boharski, Eleanor R. Carriker, and Clifford A. Carroll, Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Oregon Province Archives of the Society of Jesus Alaska Mission Collection (Spokane, Wash.: Gonzaga University, 1980).
A valuable book in the study of the native Alaskans is June Helms, The Indians of the Subarctic: A Critical Bibliography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, n.d.). This bibliography provides many sources concerning culture, individual tribes, and historical and contemporary issues.
In researching Native Alaskan dispersals, the following major sources should not be overlooked: Indian Agency records of British Columbia, the Yukon, and Washington State; the Chemawa Indian School (see Ethnic Groups of Oregon); and early Catholic parish records of Washington State.
The search for Native dispersals should also stretch as far east as Manitoba, Canada. A Manitoba source that should not be overlooked is D.N. Sprague and R.P. Frye’s work, The Genealogy of the First Metis Nation: The Development and Dispersal of the Red River Settlement, 1820–1900 (Winnipeg, Manitoba: Pemmican Publications, 1983).