Who gets the credit for a discovery? Do people argue about the ownership of the land? Is everyone treated fairly?
Over time, as stories are handed down orally or are rewritten, some details change or might even be completely left out. Going back to primary source material can sometimes give us a different view of the history in textbooks. One version of how gold was discovered in the Juneau area tells of the Tlingit Chief Kowee who brought the first gold samples to Sitka. Who was Chief Kowee? Sometimes we need to put together many objects to help us understand a story. Let's look at a few pieces of the Chief Kowee story that have survived.
Study the photograph. Form an overall impression of the man you see. Examine the details.
Based on what you see, list three things you might infer (conclude by reasoning) from this photo.
Part of learning from the past is having accurate written records. Over time memories fade and as we get further from the actual event, it is more likely that details will not be completely accurate. What would you do next to prove or disprove that the photograph is a picture of Chief Kowee?
Compare this recent photograph of an Indian police badge in the museum with the old photograph of Chief Kowee.
Do you think this is the same badge you see in the picture? Why or why not?
Read the historical documents from the Alaska Archives about Indian commissioners.
What do the documents tell us that might be related to Chief Kowee? What evidence do you find in the documents to support the idea that the man in the photograph is Chief Kowee? What additional information would you like? Where might you find evidence for the answers you would like?
Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, but the boundaries between Alaska, Yukon and British Columbia were not well surveyed. With the discovery of gold in the area it became more important to know if mining claims were in Canada or Alaska because the mining laws were different. If you were a miner in this area what would you do?
Read the two documents above from Governor James Sheakley.
What kind of documents are these? When were they written? Consider to whom the letters were written. What differences in the style of writing do you notice? Where do you think the petition is? If it still exists, where might you start looking for it?
Find the area of Glacier Creek, a tributary of the Yukon on a map.
Why were the miners interested in the boundary?
How long do you think it would take to decide the boundary dispute? Look back at page 2 from the Fairbanks Miner. Read the Alaska Boundary Treaty article.
What was life like during the discovery of gold for the Alaskan Natives who lived here? Finding written documents and evidence that has survived for over 100 years requires patience, hard work, and creative searching. There are many stories that do not have physical evidence to help us verify them. But by piecing together photographs and government documents that have survived we begin to hear the parts of the story of the Native Alaskans during the gold rush era.
In a series of three letters from Governor Sheakley we find early evidence that legal questions and disagreements about land ownership occurred. We only have the letters sent by the Governor. You must piece together what the letters before and after may have contained. Read and consider the three documents.
When were the documents created? What question or problem might have prompted the writing of these letters? How do you think the problem was resolved? Where would you look for more evidence?