Petroff, Ivan (1884) Report on the Population, Industries and Resources of Alaska., USGPO, Washington (section on Aleut Customs, translated by Petroff from Veniaminov's "Notes on the Islands of the Unalashka District")


Under the head of "Traditions" the Russian missionary <Veniaminov> writes:

1. The Aleuts say that in olden times the weather was clearer and warmer, the winds more moderate. This last assertion is confirmed by the first Russian explorers.

1. They say that their forefathers came from their original dwelling-places in the west, in the same great land, which was called also "Aliakhskha", that is, continent. In that country there were no storms, no winters, but constant pleasant atmosphere, and the people lived peaceably and quietly ; but in the course of time quarrels and intertribal wars compelled them to move farther and farther to the eastward, until they duly reached the sea-coast. Later they were even compelled to take to the water. But even on the coast they could not remain in peace, being pressed by other people, and therefore were compelled to seek refuge on the islands; and finally, traveling from island to island, they settled in their present villages.

3. Before the war and dissension broke out among them here they were accustomed to travel (ayoulaghan) peaceably to the westward and eastward ward, to make the acquaintance of other people and their customs; and one of these travelers (agoitlanam) succeeded in reaching the northernmost cape of America, which he named Kigaditigan Kamga, that is, Northern Head, and of which he told his people on his return that it was covered with ice, and told of the products of the country and the habitations of the people, who were as much afraid of heat as we are of polar cold and at the time of the summer solstice they left their Villages, fearing to die if they remained. Subsequently the object and direction of these voyages were gradually changed; in place of inquiries iuto the customs of other people, they began to travel for the sake of trade and traffic. and finally for purposes of plunder and slaughter, and to go to war.

4. The Aleuts consider as their relatives the Kenaitze, Chugach, Yakutats, and Kolosh (but the Kolosh do not acknowledge this). In -instantiation of their claim the Aleuts say that one prominent individual, the father of a numerous family, was from necessity compelled to leave his village on Oonalashka; in one summer he collected all his family and relatives, and departed in large bidarkas to the northern side of the Aliakhskha, with the intention to travel (agonlaghan) and to search for a better and richer country. He landed in the first at one of the Aglemute villages and remained, but the Aglemutes did not receive them as friends, but as enemies, and in a general attack put them to flight. The Aleuts, finding it inconvenient or impossible to settle near the sea-coast, proceeded to the headwaters of some large river, and having selected a convenient spot settle down for good. Their descendants made peace with the natives of the country and increased, but with their increase came a greater change in their former customs, appearing principally in the greater inclination to war and to hunt. After the lapse of much -time a quarrel ensued between tho descendants of the original Oonalafdikans and the Creoles or half-breeds, finally resulting in a war. Their village was situated on both sides of the stream, one half opposite the other. They had adopted the habit, for the sake of accustoming themselves to war, of making sham attacks one upon the other, shooting spears and arrows without points; but during one of these sham attacks some one placed a head upon his arrow and hit an enemy in the eye. The attack was at once changed from sham to reality, but as the number of Creoles was much larger the Oonalashkans were obliged to leave the place and move farther eastward, finally passing from river to river and emerging upon the shores of the gulf of Kenai, where they settled down once more. The present Kenaitze are their descendants. The Creoles left behind increased more and more, aud divisions of them were compelled to move to the northeastward, and Anally became the founders of the Chugachs, Yakutats and Kolosh.

5. The Aleuts say that in former times their ancestors constructed deep caves as a protection against sudden attacks of the enemy, and in doing so occasionally found the bones of a larger race of people, whom they called Shougaman or Itangikh-Taiyagoun that is, the first men, or those who, in their opinion, lived before the flood. These bones and skeletons were mostly found in the third layer of earth, and were rarely found to be fossilized ; and whenever such a bone wan unearthed a very strong, disagreeable odor spread around, driving away all bystanders. They believe that some time ago them was a large flood, and that up to that time men were of larger size but their philosophers asserted that half-dead people live everywhere under the surface of the earth.

6. They say that in their old country (they do not know of any other) there was also a very great flood in punishment of disregard of sacred customs and traditions. They express it in their language for "our evil doings the water came upon us ".

7. In former times the sea-shore along the whole group of islands was more deeply indented (in some localities this is even yet perceptible) ; they also say that the grandfathers of the present Aleuts in their youth heard from their grandfathers that they found on elevated spots, and often far distant from the sea, signs of former dwellings, such as whale-ribs and large logs of drift-wood. Between these places and the shore-line they also found sometimes small pebbles tied with whalebone fiber, such as are now used for sinkers, fish lines, and nets. From these indications the Aleuts came to the conclusion that at some time these elevated positions, showing the remains of dwelling-places, were on the sea-shore, and over the places where the sinkers are now found the sea once extended. But all thi.s was subsequent to the flood.

8. With regard to the volcanoes, the Aleuts maintain in their traditions that in times gone by all the “fire mountains " on Oonalashka and Oumnak islands quarreled among themselves as to which had the largest body of fire inside of them, and after a prolonged dispute, in which not one of them would yield to the others, they concluded that a decision could only be made by a trial of strength. Immediately a most fearful conflict ensued, lasting for many days, the mountains throwing fire and rocks at each other in place of spears ; the smaller peaks could not withstand the larger ones, and, recognizing their weakness, they bowed down and went out forever. Finally only two of their craters remained, one on Oonalashka Makushin (Ayak) and the other on Oumnak, the Recheshnaia (Ismak). These, having vanquished all the others, engaged in a single-handed conflict with the most disastrous consequences to their surroundings ; fire, rock, and ashes were thrown in such quantities that all animals inhabiting the neighborhood perished and the air became heavy. The Oumnak crater finally could not keep up with its rival, and, seeing destruction impending, gathered all its strength, jumped up with a bound and collapsed. The Makushin volcano, being victor and but little injured, ana seeing no more enemies around him, gradually calmed down, and now only smokes occasionally.

With regard to early estimates of the Aleut population upon the islands I cannot do better than again quote Veniaminof. who wrote as follows in 1840:

The number of native inhabitants of the islands of the Aliaska district, exclusive of Russians and Creoles, has been of late very small. In 1834 all the Aleuts belonging to the district, that is, those living in the villages on Oonalashka and on the Pribylof islands, numbered 688 males and 812 females a total of 1,494 souls. In 1806 the number had been 1,953 --965 males and 988 females. Mr. Sarychef, in his voyage, writes that with the arrival of the Russians on these islands the number of native inhabitants decreased greatly, and during his presence in 1792 barely one-third of the inhabitants remained. A consultation of his tables, however, shows that then the males alone numbered 1,235; if we add to this the larger number of females, the inhabitants of Aliaska district in 1792, exclusive of those living on the Pribylof islands, were more than 2,500 souls. If, again, we take this number for one-third, as Sarychef says, the number of inhabitants in 1750, or about the time of the arrival of the Russians, must have been not less than 8,000.

The traditions of the Aleuts are to the effect that up to the arrival of the Russians their number was ten times greater than Sarychef found it. Old men relate that a long time ago, before the arrival of the Russians, the inhabitants of Oonalashka district wore so numerous that every island and every convenient location was settled, and that in every village were from 40 to 70 bidarkas, with as many adult males able to propel a bidarka; and if we add to these as many females, and twice as many children and old men, it follows that every village contained from 150 to 280 souls, or an average of 215. From personal observations aud from tales of the Aleuts I must suppose that in this district 120 villages were located, and thus supposing that each village contained a nearly equal population, it seems that the inhabitants of the Aleutian islands in their best times numbered 25,000. Doubtless this number is somewhat large, but as far as we can trust to the accounts of Aleuts, as well as of Russians who lived here at the end of the last century, and who saw with their own eyes the destruction of many villages, it seems very probable that the number of the Aleuts once reached twelve or fifteen thousand. Of the reasons of decrease we shall speak below, and only remark here that the decrease of the Aleuts in numbers began long before the arrival of the Russians, and continued steadily down to the year 1822. From that period to 1829 the decrease ceased ; and from 1829 to 1838, until the appearance of the small-pox, the number of Aleuts began to increase. The smallest number of Alcnts we find in 1820 and 1821. In 1822 the registers showed 695 males, 779 females a total of 1,474. From this it is evident that in 1834 the number of Aleuts had increased by 20 males, without counting the females then married to Russians and Creoles, who represented at least an equal number. Glancing at the appended tables of births and deaths from 1822 to 1837 we see that during the first five years the number of Aleuts born average 34 per annum, and, exclusive of illegitimate births, 29. During the last nine years, however, the average was 40; exclusive of the illegitimate, 38. Consequently, of late the number of births has increased nearly fourfold. And here it is also necessary to take into consideration that the number of females who bore children, or were able to bear them, was, up to 1828, very much larger than after that period. This is evident from the fact that of 172 souls born from 1822 to 1828, 25 were illegitimate, that is, one-seventh of all the births; but in the last nine years only 17 out of 362 births were illegitimate less than 1 in 21. The reasons why births were formerly less frequent than of late may be briefly stated as follows :

First. The absence of midwives and ignorance of managing women in child-birth. It is true that though a few who are more intimately acquainted with the Russians have adopted their customs before and after the birth of children, being convinced by example and persuasion, but at the present time there are still very many who proceed in their old way.

Second. The married women are still very dissolute, and their excesses interfere with their fruitfulness, but of late there has been great improvement observed in this respect.

Third. In former times the Aleuts were entirely at the mercy of vicious and ignorant hunters. It was quite common to force young girls into marriage with the strangers at too early an age. Of late, however, the teaching of Christian doctrines has counteracted this evil.

Fourth. The diseases of various kinds introduced by the Russians have also interfered with the fruitfulness of women, but this cause has now been nearly overcome.

Fifth. Another obstacle to more rapid increase of population will probably be found in the fact that the Aleuts suffer from temporary starvation every spring, the fathers and mothers on such occasions thinking only of their children, and forgetting themselves to such an extent that in some families the parents can scarcely be recognized as their former selves, while the children are fat and healthy.

These are the reasons why births were of comparatively rare occurrence among the women in former times (in no greater proportion than one to nine), and why they are now more frequent. It is necessary to remark that in their present mode of life the Aleut women cannot at all compare in frnitfulness with Russian women, because, having no milk beside their own, they must nurse their children not less than a year. It has been mentioned above that in the course of ten years the number of Aleuts increased only by 10 from a total of 1,474, that is one- fourteenth of 1 per cent; but the increase of Creoles in ten years was very much greater, showing 31 births among 120 married couples, or about 26 per cent. The reasons why the wives of Creoles, who were nearly all Aleuts, are much more fruitful than the wives of Aleuts may be the following: The wives of Creoles at the time of birth proceed not according to the Aleut but according to the Russian custom. All Creoles are generally possessed of means to procure flour and tea, and keep on hand a sufficiency of provisions at all times. All Creoles are also much better lodged than the Aleuts, at least in so far as they have warmer huts and more clothing and linen than the Aleuts, who are not in a condition to procure them. The causes of decrease in population are, in the opinion of Aleuts themselves, internal wars, the Russians, and diseases; the first, occurring previous to the arrival of the Russians, were conducted with such cruelty that in retaliation for the murder of one, whole settlements were destroyed; but the greatest decimation ot the Aleut population they ascribe to the Russians, and especially to Sollovey, or Solovief, who was the direct or indirect cause of it, as, exclusive of those whom he and his companions killed during the course of two years, not one-third of those who fled before him returned to their habitations. It is supposed that a majority of those who did not return died from cold and hunger, while the younger and healthier Aleuts found means of subsistence and would not return, and these are the first fugitives mentioned here. In addition, it is said that even when the slaughter ceased, and the Aleuts, becoming accustomed to the later arrivals of Russians, began to live peaceably once more, the population not only failed to increase but decreased very perceptibly for some reason unknown to them. The causes of decrease among the Aleuts of this district may be divided into three periods : First, from the beginning of their internal wars to the first appearance of Russians among them that is, up to 1760. Second, from the first arrival of the Russians on these islands to the arrival of the expedition of Billings that is, up to 1790; and, third, from the time of the departure of this expedition until the present time.

Each period, in addition to those causes common to all times, has its own proper causes entirely distinct from each other ; that is, prior to the arrival of the Russians the Aleuts decreased from internal wars ; after the arrival of the Russians, from violence and oppression, but subsequently from being compelled to fit out hunting parties and recruit their columns.

Each period presents a multitude of more or less important incidents, but I shall speak only of such as are best known and entitled to credence.

THE FIRST PERIOD. A long time before the arrival of the Russians the Aleuts began to have wars with neighboring tribes with the Aglemute, and principally with the Kadiaks. Thus it is told that the inhabitants of this district destroyed an Aglemute village on the Nushegak river, at the site of the present redoute of Alexandrovsk. This victory was so overwhelming that not one of the Aglemute escaped, and a lake situated near the village was filled with blood and corpses. Several times they attacked the Kadiaks and destroyed their villages. However, though these enterprises were bold and frequently successful, it was but natural that sometimes the Aleuts should meet with disaster. It occurred several times that out of the whole coutingent of islanders departing upon such expeditions not one returned, or only a few. Mr. Davidof relates that many Oonalashka Aleuts perished in Ooiak bay on Kadiak island, whither they had proceeded for the purpose of attacking the Kadiaks. Retaliation was the order of the day, and both sides suffered severely. Gradually these wars or warlike raids became of such freqnent occurrence that the inhabitants of the Shumagin islands were compelled either to join the hostiles or to retreat to their fastnesses on inaccessible cliffs or outlying rocks. Locked up in their fortifications, not daring to leave them, they could not secure their winters' supplies and died of starvation. In addition to such wars and mutual attacks of different tribes there was also much internal conflict. It is known that the people of Oonimak attacked those of the Shnmagin islands, Aliaska peninsula, Oonalashka, and even Onmnak and the Krenitzin islands. The Oumnak people made raids upon the Oonalashkans and others. In the course of time the raiders were raided in their turn, and general destruction, amounting almost to extermination, ensued. It is known that of an attacking party of Oonimak people on the island of Amaknak, in Captain's harbor, all remained on the field of action. Finally the internal dissensions increased to such an extent that not only the inhabitants of one island fell upon those of another, but the people of one and the same island made war upon each other, and inflicted upon each other every imaginable injury. Thus the Aleuts of Oonalga killed several men from a neighboring village on Oonalashka simply because they had threatened to kill one of them. There is no doubt that all these wars caused the destruction, of a large number of Aleuts in addition to those slain in conflict. For instance, of the wives and children of the Aleuts who perished at Ooiak bay, on Kadiak, many who lost husbands and fathers suffered want, and the tradition that the Aleut population previous to the internal wars was twice what the Russians found it becomes probable. A few old Aleuts maintain that if the Russians had not made their appearance upon these islands the population would have entirely disappeared by this time. From this standpoint the arrival of the Russians, which had put an end to the internal war and strife, may be considered as a blessing to the hunters.

THE SECOND PERIOD. When the Russians arrived the internal strife was discontinued, and one particular cause of decrease in numbers wan removed, but the rate of decrease remained the same. The peace and good understanding established between the Russians who first visited Oumnak and Oonalashka islands under the leadership of Glottof lasted but a short time. It is not definitely known who gave the first provocation to quarrel --the Russians by oppression and violence of every kind, or the Aleuts by refusing to submit to the foreign yoke. The first is much more probable, but the last must not be entirely overlooked. Whatever the cause was, the first hostile measures were taken by the islanders, who during one winter destroyed three Russian ships and thereby gave the Russians a pretext for avenging the blood of their countrymen and for adopting stringent measures for their own protection. It devolved upon Glottof and Solovief to wreak unlimited vengeance. Glottof having returned from Kadiak to the island of Oumnak, previously discovered by him, found the friendship and good feeling formerly existing between him and the Onmnak people changed to hostility. In retaliation murder and fire took the place of peace and good understanding. Under the pretext of avenging the death of his countrymen, and partially from fear, he destroyed all the villages on the southern side of Oumnak and the inhabitants of the islands Samalgi and Four Mountains. Solovief, who had arrived on Ooualashka from Kamchatka, and anchored his ship in Koshigin bay, treated the poor Aleuts with excessive cruelty, also under the pretext of avenging the death of Drushinin, another trader. Mr. Berg, in his history of the discovery of the Aleutian islands, endeavors to underestimate the number of islanders slain by Solovief, but for all that he says that Solovief killed 100 men who had attacked the Russian station, and from one fortified village destroyed by fire 200 bodies were thrown into the water. Consequently, it appears from the testimony of this prejudiced witness that Solovief destroyed not less than 300 able-bodied males and youths. Nearly a century has elapsed since these dreadful times, and there is no longer any reason for concealing the deeds of the first Russian promyshleniks, nor to exaggerate their cruel treatment of the Aleuts. The facts cannot be changed or mended, and, though there is no necessity for parading the dreadful cruelties of ignorant and vicious people, especially as these men were Russians and my countrymen, I am compelled to speak of what I heard from very many who had been eye-witnesses, or heard the same from Solovief's own companions (I have personally interviewed many Aleuts who had known Solovief); this must be done in order to bring forward new evidence of what men will do when left to themselves with unlimited power and no fear of retribution. Without this my account of these people would be incomplete.

The Aleuts say that the Russians shot many of their number witli their muskets only for sport, using them targets, but others deny this; but it certainly occurred more than once, at least in this district, and particularly in the village of Koshigin. It was Solovief who conceived the idea of ascertaining how many human bodies a bullet would pierce, and to this end he ordered twelve Aleuts to be tied together (who were probably not altogether guiltless), and shot at them with his rifle. It is said that the bullet lodged in the ninth man. It is also known that lie destroyed two bidarkas of Oumnak Aleuts who had come to visit their kin, and after many single wanton murders he finally found the inhabitants of several Oonalashka villages assembled on Egg island, Sprikin, and fortified. The second attack of Solovief was successful, and he destroyed all the besieged Aleuts, with their wives and children. This slaughter was so general that the sea in the neighborhood was covered with blood from the dead and wounded thrown into it.

Natrubin, partner and worthy companion of Solovief, destroyed the Aleuts on Avatanok, unarmed and frequently innocent, and it is said that Solovief himself did not kill as many Aleuts as his companions on the neighboring islands. During this time, so terrible to the Aleuts, there were two Russian ships in the vicinity, one at Issanakh strait and the other at Makushin, the crews of which also destroyed many Aleuts. The Russians on the first vessel, from suspicion or in revenge of the Russians killed at Isannakh, destroyed the four villages on Oonimak island, sparing only the young females and a few youths. The Russians, under the leadership of their "peredovchik", who had with him a girl from Atkha, left a few men on the ship and proceeded to Oonimak, with the intention of exterminating the rebellious people. Secretly making their way to the first village they secured all the spears from the bidarkas, where they are always kept by the Aleuts, and broke them; then, suddenly falling upon the defenseless inhabitants in their dwellings, they slaughtered without mercy all who succeeded in emerging from the houses, while the remainder perished in the flames. In the same manner three villages were destroyed. On approaching the fourth, however, situated at the foot of Shishaldin mountain, they were overtaken by a severe rain-storm, and thoroughly drenched and disheartened. The inhabitants sighted them from afar and recognized them as Russians. The chief proposed to meet them outside of the village and kill them, saying that they did not come to them for nothing, but the other prominent inhabitants refused to agree, saying: "Why should we kill them when they have as yet done us no harm”. Consequently the islanders received the Russians kindly, warming them and providing them with food. The Russians were exhausted to such a degree that they could not descend into the subterranean huts without assistance. The poor Aleuts did not know what they were doing. The Russians, having recovered their strength, at once went to work. Having assembled all the natives under some pretext, they began to shoot them down without mercy. They then proceeded on their way to continue the work of death, but the inhabitants of the next village disputed their entrance into the village, and, making a sudden sortie, killed the peredovchik and his girl, wounded a few, and put the remainder to flight. The place was subsequently called "a dangerous village " by the Russians. It is not quite clear to which ship these Russians belonged to that of Protossof or to that of Bechevin. It is also related-that some Russians destroyed three villages on Ikatak island, and that they fired upon and killed a number of Aleuts who were coming to make them presents of fish.

The second ship at anchor in the bay of Makushin appears to have been the same mentioned by Berg as being under command of Brigin. The Aleuts of one of the villages in the neighborhood, being informed of the destruction of Drushinin's ship in Captain's harbor, made up their minds to imitate the example of another village ; the Russians, however, being warned of their danger, turned the tables and annihilated the plotters.

Horrible as the deeds of these first Russian visitors were, some excuse may be found for them, and in some instances retaliation was absolutely necessary. The doings of later arrivals, however, cannot be excused upon any ground. The promyshleniks coming to the islands between 1770 and 1790 followed the example of their predecessors, and indulged in the most revolting cruelties. The names of Ocheredin and Polutovsky became especially obnoxious at this period. Of their followers, many are still held in dreadful remembrance by the Aleuts; among them are Lazaref, Molatile, Peter Katyshevtzof, Shabaief, Kukanof, Sitnikof, Brukhanof, and Malkof. The first two of these were on Akoon island, and tho others farther to the eastward. These men placed not the slightest value upon the life of an Aleut. It is well known and authenticated that the first threw over precipices, cut with knives --which he always carried with him-- and felled with axes a number of Aleuts for no other reason than that they dared to look at his concubine (who died only in 1838). One of those men named let out the entrails of an Aleut girl because she had eaten a favorite piece of whale-meat which he had set aside for himself. When we consider all these murders-- I do not speak of such cases as are not fully substantiated --and take into consideration the consequences, it would seem that the number of Aleuts slain by Solovief, according to Davidof, is not exaggerated ; he places it at 3,000, and even the number of 5,000, mentioned by Sarychef as that of Aleuts murdered by tho Russians, is not without probability. Sarychef calls it a moderate estimate.

At last, in 1790, the arrival of the Billings expedition put an end to murder and cruelties, and a more peaceable life began.

THIRD PERIOD. Though cruelties and murder ceased after the departure of Billings' expedition, the decrease in the Aleut population did not cease. Misfortunes of another kind, brought about by dangerous pursuits and voyages, formed a new reason for the decrease of the islanders. Thus at one time Merkulief, an agent at Oonalashka, sent eighty families to the Pribylof islands, of whom less than one-half returned ; thirty-two of these were lost at one time in 1812, in a bidar commanded by Zakharof, and never heard from. A number of others were killed at various times by sea-lions.

The occupation of Sitka by Baranof made it necessary to push forward re-enforcements of men, and a hundred men with their families were dispatched to Sitka in their bidarkas, but only one-third of them ever returned. The rapid decrease in the number of sea-otters made a more active pursuit of the animal necessary, involving long voyages from one hunting-ground to the other. During such journeys many perished : in 1809 a bidarka with 40 people, in crossing from Oumnak island to the coast of tho peninsula ; in 1811 a bidarka with 30 men; in 1824 20 bidarkas which left the Four Mountain islands were lost; and, finally, in 1828, a bidar with 15 men in the Akutan straits. In addition to these disasters there were, of course, numbers of less importance. It is impossible to ascertain the whole number of lives lost in this way; it is certain that the number greatly exceeded that of deaths from natural causes. In addition to the causes of decrease already mentioned, there were others that may be called unavoidable and unforeseen causes, such as famine and diseases, both of which were very prominent factors in decreasing the population. Famine made its appearance ut the time of the internal wars, according to the traditions of the Aleuts, and it seems that its victims were more numerous than those of battle. Ever since that time famine has been a constant visitor among the Aleuts, before and after the arrival of the Russians, and even after the establishment of the present privileged company. The Aleuts never lay up great stores of provisions, and nearly every year they suffer at least a partial famine daring the first mouths of the year. Their name for the month of March is Khissagounak-- that is, " when straps are chewed." This expresses that about that time they had no proper food. It is evident, therefore, that at such a time the least misfortune in hunting may bring about the most dreadful consequences. But what must be the condition in those villages where only women and children remain the men having perished, or gone away by order of the company? This was often the case in former times; indeed, numerous instances of wholesale starvation are known. Under the administration of Burenin all the inhabitants of one of the villages on the eastern coast of Akutan died of hunger, only one old woman remaining to tell the tale. Also, under Petrotf's administration, in 1822, seven people died in Koshigin village of hunger, but, thanks to the efforts of the officers and chiefs, such disasters are likely in the future to be prevented, though scarcity of food may still be apprehended.

Of epidemic diseases we have but little information. They have occurred in this district, but the deaths have been less here than in other regions of the colonies. The nature of epidemics in early times is of course unknown, but in 1807 and 1808 there occurred on Oonalashka an epidemic called the "bloody fever", which began in the principal village and rapidly spread over the whole district, a very large number of men and young women dying of the same ; old people seeming to have been entirely exempt. The greatest mortality was in the principal village. After the wreck of an American ship, under command of O'Kane, the virulent disease made its appearance, the origin of which was ascribed to the eating of wet rice. This disease began to spread, and attacked large numbers, in every case those who partook of the rice. In 1830, in the autumn, an epidemic began and continued until the spring of the following year; thirty people, mostly youths and strong men, died of this disease, but children, old men, and the whole female sex seemed to have been exempt. The greatest mortality from this cause was at Ounga, where the disease had appeared some time before, and extended to the Aliaska peninsula. On the other islands it was unknown. The last epidemic was the small-pox, which appeared here in 1838. The syphilitic disease was perhaps the most disastrous of all, but the extent of its ravages has not been ascertained. This disease appeared with the Russians, and committed its greatest ravages about 1798. At that time there were whole families and even villages, from the oldest to the youngest, marked by this dreadful disease. Such a family came under my own observation in Makushin village, but I believe that this family was the last victim of this plague, as since that time I have observed but rare instances, principally in the harbor village during the presence of ships.



To express a definite or authoritative opinion on the subject would be impossible, because there is no definite information concerning it; opinions must be necessarily based upon guess-work up to traditions of the Aleuts themselves and local indications.

Were these islands always inhabited, and who were the first inhabitants Aleuts or another people? At the first glance upon the islands of the Oonalashka district, devoid of timber and poor in products of the land, it becomes evident that the present Aleuts must be the first inhabitants; and it would also appear that they did not settle here very long ago. The traditions of the formation of these islands are not very clear, but we encounter at every step the traces of volcanic revolutions of comparatively recent date. Traces of villages have scarcely been touched by time, and whenever the old men point to a spot where a village existed in former times we can still perceive the ground-work of the huts, and even the holes for seasoning the fish, and a luxuriant growth of grasses plainly indicating the extent of the former settlements; therefore we may conclnde that the islands have not been inhabited very long, and that the present Aleuts are the first race that settled upon them.

From whence came the Aleuts to these islands-- from America or from Asia ? The traditions of the Aleuts, chiefly transmitted in songs, say that the Aleuts came from the west, near the great land, then Aliakskhakh, or Tnam Angouna, which was their original habitation, and that they wandered from there to these islands, and then gradually extended to the eastward aud finally penetrated to the present Aliaska peninsula.

Tnam Angouna is now one of the Four Mountain islands, and in its present condition certainly does not deserve the name of "great land" when compared with .any of the other islands.Perhaps it received its name from being the largest of the Four Mountain islands; but in spite of this some of the Aleuts believe that they originated there. This theory would only be admissible if we were to assume that the- Four Mountain islands at one time formed one body of land together with the Andreianof islands, and perhaps was united with Kamchatka. But it is mnch more probable that the Aleuts really came from the west, from a great land that is, Asia aud their descendants penetrating further to the eastward, though preserving the tradition about coming from the great land situated in the west, lost any definite idea of the same, forgetting, perhaps, the very existence of Asia, and began to believe that the small island Tnam Augouna was the place of their origin. The migration of the Aleuts from the westward may be accepted as a fact; and even if the mainland of Asia and the Aleutian islands wen- always at the same distance from each other that they are now, the island of Bering is visible in clear weather from Kamchatka, and from Bering the nearest Aleutian island can sometimes be sighted [?]. This would indicate the route of the migration; as to the mode of conveyance by which the Aleuts made their way from the continent, it is most probable that they traveled in canoes and bidarkas, since in former times the weather was very much finer during the summer and clearer than it is now. Such journeys from the Kamchatkan shore to the Aleutian islands were accomplished even after ships had commenced to make the voyage. We might add that if the Aleuts came from Asia they must have come from Kamchatka, or from Japan over the Kurile islands, and in that case there should be some similarity, in language and customs and mode of life, between the Aleuts and the coast people of Asia. At any rate, the Aleuts bear greater resemblances to the Asiatic than to the Americans; while, on the other hand, the Fox Island Aleuts, in their appearance, mode of life, and customs, resemble more closely the North American native, especially the Kadiaks. Their language, though differing from that of surrounding tribes, is constructed in the same manner as that of the Kadiaks, which is known to all the tribes inhabiting the coast of North America; and even the language of the Chugachs (Chukches?) is a branch of it. There seems to be no similarity between it and the Japanese, as far as I can judge from questioning the Japanese who visited Sitka.

But even this theory could be overturned by the following question : Supposing that the Aleuts and other Americans speaking the Kadiak language had, some time before the settlement of America, lived in close vicinity, the latter to the southward aud nearer to Kamchatka, and the former to the northward and nearer to cape Chukhotsk ; but, in time, being pressed by other tribes, they were compelled to migrate to their present residence, the first from Kamchatka to Bering island and farther on; the latter probably much earlier crossed Bering strait to America, and perhaps continuing on their way southward and founding other nations, such as the Kolosh, the Indians, Mexicans, and others. In this case they should not forget the wars carried on, especially between the Aleuts and the Kadiaks. Was not this strife, which existed before the arrival of the Russians, the remnant of wars between them before migration ?

We know now that Veniaininof misunderstood the meaning of some of the Aleutian traditions. The Tnam Angounam, or Four Mountain group, was formerly a center of population among the islands, as can easily be surmised from the large number of ancient village-sites and burial-caves found here; and from Tnam Angouna other islands were doubtless settled. The name Aliakshakh or Alakshak was always applied to the Aliaska peninsula.



Veniaminof wrote as follows on this subject:

Before saying anything of the government of the Aleuts I must refer to their present condition and rights. At the present time all the Aleuts may be said to form a class of laborers, because even their tribal chiefs are only overseers, frequently laboring with their command, and not in any way distinguished from the others. Only of late years the head chiefs appointed by the commander of the colonies, and selected by the Aleuts from their own chiefs, have enjoyed a certain distinction, especially in their intercourse with the office managers.

In former times the Aleuts were divided into three classes the chiefs, the common people, and kalgi or slaves; the chiefs and their children and relatives and their descendants composed the highest class, prominent in warlike exploits, and skilled in the chase. The chass of common people consisted of ordinary Aleuts, not differing from servants or laborers, but the slaves were prisoners of war and their descendants.

The right of disposing of slaves was only vested in the upper class ; the common people rarely had slaves, and no slave had any authority whatever over another. The power of the master over his slave was almost unlimited; he could punish him with death for crime without incurring any responsibility; he could sell him or trade him for goods; he could give him away, or set him at liberty. The price of slaves was nearly always at the rate of a bidarka and a good parka for a couple of slaves, that is, a man and a woman : and of a stone knife, bunch of beads, or a sea-otter garment for a single slave. The slave could hold no property; everything he acquired belonged to his master. He was always obliged to accompany his master and protect him in cases of attack, and, in consideration of this. the master was obliged to support not only the slave, but his family. A slave suffering want would bring dishonor upon his master. Good and kind masters maintained their slaves, and especially the industrious and faithful among them, like their own children, and the name of slave was the only distinction between them and the children of their master.

The form of government of the Aleuts may be called patriarchal. Every village consisted always of relatives and formed only one family, where the oldest of the tribe was named Toyone (Toukhoukh), and had power over all, but his power was very much that of a father over a large family ; that is, he was obliged to look after the common welfare, and to protect his territory (every village had its grounds set apart); strangers were not allowed to hunt in grounds thus set aside;. infraction of this rule often gave rise to wars. That chief was the leader in war, but he had no right to take from his command anything except the share due to his family of all food, furs, or drift-wood, whether he was present at the distribution or not ; but his share was not greater than that of any other man. With regard to the affairs of the community his power extended far enough to enable him to send out anybody with sons or relatives to execute any errand that might benefit the community, but on his own business he could not dispatch anybody. No special honor or outward respect was shown to the chief. The Aleuts had punishments, and even capital punishment, but the latter conld not be inflicted by the chief without the consent of all the nobles. The chief conld not begin wars with neighbors without the consent of other chiefs living on the same island, and without the consent of the oldest among them.

A few villages, the inhabitants of which had sprung from one family, formed a state or community where the oldest chief descended in a straight line from their forefathers, who first settled the islands, was the ruler. If no direct descendant was available, the head chief was selected among the other chiefs for his bravery, wisdom, and skill in hunting. He had such powers over the other chiefs as were vested in the chief of the village over his own people. It was his duty to protect all and avenge insults; in case of war he commanded, all the force with the consent of other chiefs, and made peace in the same way. Without his consent no subchief could make war upon his neighbors, or undertake a raid against the Kadiaks, or set out upon any important hunting expedition. Of all that was cast up by the sea he had an equal share with the people of each settlement, and therefore such head chiefs became richer, and consequently stronger, than the others. The respect in which the head chief was held by the neighboring tribes depended entirely upon the influence which he yielded over his own subordinates. The principal chief, with such powers and rights, may be called the ruler of his island or district, but the Aleuts never had any chief or ruler who had the right to dispose arbitrarily of the whole community.

I have already remarked that the Alents have capital punishment. The murderer and the betrayer of community secrets were punished with death. When it had been reported that an Aleut had committed a crime worthy of death, the chief assembled the council, composed of all the nobles and old men and himself; he laid the matter before them and asked their opinion, and when all were unanimous in judging the accused as worthy of death, all the males seated themselves in an open space, armed with their spears. The culprit was also brought out, surrounded by a few youug men at the command of the chief, and suddenly, at a preconcerted signal, they thrust their spears into him. If after this he was still alive one of the warriors was ordered to stab or cut him to death. It must be remarked that it was not necessary to keep the culprit guarded or to bind him during the punishment, becanse every criminal endeavored to make the greatest display of indifference in the face of death. He never wasted words in exoneration or in appeals for mercy ; he walked upright and fearlessly to the place of execution, in order to make his name famous among his people. Many of such executed criminals are still praised in the songs transmitted to their descendants.

Other less important crimes were punished at first by reprimand by the chief before the community-, and upon repetition the offender was bound and kept in such a condition for some time. This was a great disgrace ; in rare instances the men thus tied were beaten. The law with regard to slaves was more strict and better defined. For disobedience the ears were cut off; for insolence to the master, lips were severed ; and if any evil resulted from indiscretion on the part of slaves, such as war or quarrels, the offender was put to death. For the first attempt to escape they received corporal punishment ; for the second, their hands were tied at their back, and in such condition they were kept along time; for the third attempt they were hamstrung; and for the fourth attempt the punishment was always death. The mode of putting slaves to death was entirely different from ordinary executions. They were not speared, as other people, but killed with clubs. For the first theft (which was considered a very disgraceful crime, especially when the slaves stole from strangers), corporal punishment was inflicted ; for the second offense of the kind some fingers of the right hand were cut off; for the third, the left hand and sometimes the lips were amputated ; and for the fourth offense the punishment was death.

The power of the chiefs and all the rights of the Aleuts were in full force at the time when the population was greatest. Interior wars decreased the number of Aleuts, and at the same time the power of the chiefs and their own privileges, but with the arrival of the Russians the latter were entirely extinguished, and even the power of the chiefs remained only a shadow. Solovief and his companions, who undertook the work of pacifying, or rather exterminating, the Aleuts, first lessened the influence of the chiefs over their people. The Russians who followed in their wake also adopted this policy, until the chiefs were distinguished in no way from other Aleuts, being exempt neither from labor nor from punishment. In course of time the Aleuts began to look upon the chiefs as their equals in every other respect. Our government empowered the commanders of naval expeditions that visited this region between 1792 and 1823 to confer bronze, silver, and gold medals upon the chiefs, and the new regulations of the Russian American Company provided for the distinction of chiefs from common people, restoring to them a portion of their former power. It is difficult, however, to restore or establish what has no stability in itself. Of late years (1832) the colonial government found it necessary to set up in this region two or three head chiefs selected by the Aleuts themselves from the number of tribal chiefs and confirmed by the chief manager of the colonies. And thus the present government and management of the Aleuts depend altogether upon the Russian- American Company, acting through the manager of the Oonalashka district, who, on the strength of his office, gives directions and orders to the "bidarshiks " for transmitting the same to the Aleuts through their chiefs ; or the manager consults with the head chief and a few others, and explains to them his orders concerning hunting, and similar subjects, asking them how many bidarkas they can furnish for the sea-otter parties, and how many men for shooting birds, etc. The present rights and duties of the Aleuts are as follows: They enjoy the protection of the law equally with the serfs, but they are exempt from all duties and taxes. As an offset to this, they are obliged to serve the company from the fifteenth to the fiftieth year of their age, receiving pay from the company for their services. All furs which they may obtain must be sold exclusively to the company at certain prices established by the government.

It maybe asked, is the present government of the Aleuts and their present condition good?   I answer, it is good; because the Aleuts aside from their service with the company, enjoy complete liberty, and their service is only temporary and always for pay. The company takes good care that the man appointed as the manager of the Oonalashkan district be a man of good intentions and executes strictly the directions of the colonial government. The Alents have not recovered their former liberty, but there is no necessity for changing their present condition for any other. Any change could only be injurious and even disastrous. It would be perhaps desirable that the Aleuts should receive for their furs prices somewhat commensurate with those charged for goods, and also that their head chiefs should have the right to look at the accounts of the Aleuts kept at the various offices, and that all the chiefs be furnished with written rules and instructions for their guidance. Such changes as these might prove beneficial to the various communities.



The religious belief of the early Aleuts was an outgrowth of shamanism as found in the Asiatic possessions of Russia. The Aleuts believed and acknowledged that there is and must be a creator of everything visible and invisible, and who was called by them Agoughoukh, that is, creator; but having only a limited understanding, they did not connect him with the management of the world, and showed him no particular respect. Worshipping no one being, they soon came to worship everything that seemed of importance to them. As rulers of everything in their surroundings they have acknowledged two spirits, or two kinds of spirits, who regulated the fate of man in every respect. The first they called Khougakh, and the second Aglikhaiakh. Some of these worked blessings to man and others only evil, but how far their influence extended and the limits of their power, even their best theologians could not define.

Among the earliest Alents there may have been worship of the light and of celestial bodies. The first may be surmised from their custom of saluting the light.* The second supposition is based upon the fact that they were always afraid, and still show reluctance to say anything bad of the celestial bodies. The old men told the youths that anybody speaking ill of the sun for instance, complaining of its heat or glare would be struck blind and never see its light again. The moon was supposed to kill its slanderers with stones ; and whoever censured the stars would be compelled to count them or else lose his life. If, in the summer time, upon a clear and calm day, some youth would complain to his companion of the heat, and regret the winter with all its storms and famine, such carelessness was always punished by the sudden appearance of violent gales and storms, and if the offense was repeated the winter would always make its appearance earlier and with greater severity than common. In this way the young Aleuts learned to display the greatest indifference to all changes of weather and temperature.

The Aleuts believed that there were three worlds, each with its separate beings and doings. The first world which was called Akaean Kughondakh, that is, the highest world, where there was no night or evening, and where a multitude of people live forever. The second world was our globe. The third was subterraneous, and called Sitkoughikh Kouyndakh, where there was also a multitude of people, whether mortal or immortal was and is not known. They had no temples, but there were sacred or hallowed localities called Aoudeagadakh, and also sacrifices to invisible spirits. The first could be found in every village, being generally some rock or cliff or other prominent place. The females and young men were strictly prohibited from visiting such places,and especially from gathering the grasses and weeds growing upon them. Any infraction of this prohibition on the part of bold or curious youngsters was sure to be followed by disease and speedy death. In a few instances insanity was the consequence. The adult males could visit these spots at certain times, and only for the purpose of sacrificing.

The offerings (akhakhilik, that is, "All his to him he gave") were of two kinds, one optional and the other defined. The first sacrifice consisted of almost any object, principally the skins of animals, which were brought to the sacred spots with trifling ceremony and prayers for assistance in war or the chase. The second sacrifice consisted of the tail-feathers of cormorants and a few other birds only worn by men. These sacred places were protected only by prohibition. The modus operandi consisted of the votary's taking a certain number of feathers, smearing each of them with some paint, generally green or red, and throwing them to the four winds and uttering his request to the invisible spirits every time that the feathers escaped from his fingers. When the sacrifice was completed the man simply said : " Now give me what I ask."

The early Aleuts had shamans and shamanism, but what their sorcery consisted of is now difficult to ascertain, beyond the fact that it was accompanied with the usual accessories of songs, dances, beating of drums, and contortions. The shamans here as elsewhere called themselves mediators between the visible and invisible world between men and spirits ; and the mass of the people believed that they were acquainted with demons who could foretell the future and aid these sufferers, and therefore turned to them for aid in dangerous sickness or misfortune, asked them for good luck in hunting, long life, rescue from danger at sea, the calming of gales ; and also those who were not accoucheurs called them into their houses in cases of difficult birth.

Concerning their knowledge of the future the old Aleuts assert that some of the more prominent shamans had foretold, long prior to the arrival of the Russians, that white men with strange customs would come to them from the sea, and that subsequently all the Aleuts would be transformed to resemble the new arrivals and live according to their customs. They also asserted that at the time of the first appearance of the Russians they saw to the eastward of their islands a bright light, or large star, containing many people resembling the new-comers, but in the lower world few people remained, and impenetrable darkness set in.

*This early custom is described as follows :

The grown men were in the habit of emerging from their huts as soon as day was breaking, naked, and standing with their face to the east, or wherever the dawn appeared, and having rinsed their mouths with water saluted the light and the wind ; after this ceremony they would proceed to the rivulet supplying them with drinking water, strike the water several times with the palm of their hands, saying :

“I am not asleep; I am alive; I greet with you the life-giving light, and I will always live with thee."   While saying this they also had their faces turned to the east, lifting the right arm so as to throw the water, dripping from it, over their bodies. Then throwing water over the head and washing face and hands, they waded into the stream up to their knees and awaited the first appearance of the sun. Then they would carry water to their homes for use during the day. ln localities where there was no stream the ceremony was performed on the sea-beach in the same manner, with the exception that they carried no water away with them.

In spite of all their knowledge and their efforts to impose upon the ignorant, the shamans were not held in much respect, being scarcely distinguished from other people; though helping other people, they frequently were themselves in want of assistance, and were forced to apply to others. They perished from hunger and accident like their fellows. It was a very rare occurrence that the son of a ahaman adopted the trade of bin father; probably the shaman on his death-bed forbade his son to do so, explaining to him the worst side of his position, and turning his desires into another direction. Many of the shamans called their occupation "service of the devil” and told the young men that noboddy who had any fear or apprehension must lay claim to the title of shaman; and that they themselves had not adopted the profession voluntarily, but because they were powerless to resist the devil. The Aleutian shamans said they could not summon spirits (as the Kolosh do), but that the spirits made them their servants. They claimed that from the age of fifteen years the devil begins to trouble them with constant apparitions and delusions; while hunting at sea they would constantly see an island rise before them, or immense cliffs bar their way to the shore; traveling on foot they would be tempted from their path by other kinds of apparitions in the shape of animals or marvelous beings. until they were bewildered and willing to hubmit to their inevitable masters. It is known that the Aleutian shamans hare nothing whatever to do with marriages, births, or the bringing of sacrifices.

The Aleuts had an indefinite belief in the immortality of souls and in a future life. This becomes evident from the fact that prominent individuals on their death directed the killing of slaves to serve them in the other world as they had done here. They could not say what the condition of souls was in the future world, but the slaves considered it a favor and an honor to be sent with their master, and therefore we may conclude that they expected to live pleasantly in the coming life.

They all believed that the souls of the dead, or, as they cnlled them, "shadow," remained invisible among their people, accompanying them on land and sea, especially those whom they had loved, and that they were in a condition to do good as well as evil. Therefore the living called upon the dead in times of danger, especially in wars undertaken for avenging insults to the tribe.

With regard to the origin of the first man the Aleutian theologians are not unanimous. Of all their various theories, either very absurd or grotesque, or very similar to our sacred history, I present here only two. One says that at the beginning the earth was vacant, inhabited by nobody ; but at one time there fell from heaven to the earth two beings somewhat resembling man, but they had long fur all over their bodies. From them sprang a conple of similar beings, but without the fur; and from this couple again came all the people, and began to spread out to the east and north (they do not mention the south, they did not suppose the people could live there;) the place where these people originated was warm there was no winter, no gales, but a perpetually pleasant climate. The first human beings were long-lived, strong, and hardy. At the beginning the people lived peaceably and in friendship, knowing no dependence or independence, no quarrel, and no wants; but with the increase of people want and necessities appeared, and in their train the art of making arms, or hunting animals; then came dissensions and wars, and the arms were turned against men. Want and the oppression of the weaker by the stronger compelled the former to migrate from their original haliitations. and thus the world was peopled.

Others say that before any people appeared on Oonalashka or other parts of America there was on the island of Unaska one man (his name is not known), who, having lived for a long time in utter solitude, began to think that perhaps somewhere in the world there might be other people like him, and therefore, with the intention of searching for his fellows, he concluded to travel. He constructed a boat a kind of bidarka called oulilak. At first he circumnavigated Unaska, and, finding nobody there, he went on to the island of Four Mountains: there also he found nobody. Finally he proceeded to Oumnak. and, landing upon it- western extremity, went ashore and at once saw a human track. A short time elapsed and a woman walked up from the beach in grass boots. He was not long in making her acquaintance, and as she suited his taste he made her his wife. From this couple sprang all the people inhabiting the northwestern part of America. The first fruit of this union was a dog; the second, a very strange being of the male sex with wings, who, when he grew up, began to say to his parents, "I am not like men; you have no share in me." The mother, having heard this remark several times, and seeing that he actually was not like them, nor apt to propagate the human family, and consequently would only work evil, proposed to her husband to kill him, and the father consented. When they had killed him with their own hands a son was bom to them, and then a daughter, perfect human beings, and from these last couples people began to multiply. But their children moved away from them, and some spoke different, languages. The difference of speech induced them to scatter all the more in all directions; those speaking one language settling together, and those migrating to the eastward founded the various nations of the mainland of America.

The superstitions of the Aleuts were innumerable. Every action or undertaking or every stop required its own observances and talismans. Of the latter the most common was a girdle plaited of sinews and grasses under invocations; and certain pebbles, called by them “chimkikh". cast out by the sea occasionally. (This pebble resembles in shape a turnip, but is hollow inside, smooth on the outside, and of two colors, one entirely white with yellow rings, and another red with white rings. The first were called male and the other female pebbles.) The first talisman was worn on the naked body as an unfailing protection from death during hostile attacks or encounters with animals. Possessed of this charm a man would conquer everybody and everything without injury to himself. In spite of the fact that the material of these girdles was of no value whatever, they were by no means plentiful, and passed as heirlooms in families from father to son, or from uncle to nephew, with certain ceremonies. The second talisman was exceedingly rare, and, therefore, very highly valued. The fortunate individual that found such a one preserved it in some secret and clean place, and never looked upon it until the house was quiet, and after having washed his hands, and never unless some dreadful danger threatened. This pebble was only taken from its resting-place on sea-otter expeditions, when it served as a charm to attract the coveted game. The lucky possessor was always fortunate in the chase; he did not hunt the sea-otter, the sea-otter gathered around him and gazed at him with loving eyes.

To secure success in fishing they attach charms to the line and hook, consisting of small fragments of roots, weeds, or anything green or colored.

The pursuit of whales was encumbered witli many observances and superstitions. The spear-heads used in hunting the whale were greased with human fat, or portions of human bodies were tied to them, obtained from corpses found in burial caves, or portions of a widow's garments, or some poisoned roots or weed.* All such objects had their own special properties and influence, and the whalers always kept them in their bidarkas. The hunter who launched a spear provided with such a charm upon a whale at once blew upon his hands, and having sent one spear and struck the whale, he would not throw again, but would proceed at once to his home, separate himself from his people in a specially-constructed hovel, where he remained three days without food or drink, and without touching or looking upon a female. During this time of seclusion he snorted occasionally in imitation of the wounded and dying whale, in order to prevent the whale struck by him from leaving the coast. On the fourth day he emerged from his seclusion and bathed in the sea, shrieking in a hoarse voice and beating the water with his hands. Then, taking with him a companion, he proceeded to the shore where he presumed the whale had lodged, and if the animal was dead he commenced at once to cut out the place where the death-wound had been inflicted. If the whale was not dead the hunter once more returned to his home and continued washing himself until the whale died.

*Aleuts assert that some of the corpses found at the present day in caves on one of the Four Mountain islands were in the same condition in their earliest times as they are now. They are lying together, one beside the other, clothed in dog-skin parkas : their beard and hair are reddish, the skin of the body black; and from these corpses the hunters endeavored to detach some pieces of the body, or perhaps a fragment of clothing. The hunters who obtain such charms are always fortunate in their pursuit, but meet with an untimely and painful death. They begin to putrefy while yet in their prime.

For hunting the sea-otter such poisoned spears were not used, but as the Aleuts believed that the sea-otter was a transformed human being, they endeavored to ornament their bidarkas, their garments, and their spears as much as possible, in the belief that the sea-otter would be attracted by the beauty of the outfit.

Of the many superstitions concerning health, long life, etc., I know only of their fathers and uncles endeavoring to obtain the viscid expectorative matter from the throat of some old man famous for his achievements, and of irreproachable character, who had been healthy, and compelling their children or relatives to swallow it as a preventive against all violent and epidemic diseases, and as a general strengthener of the body. Such old men, in dying, frequently blessed their relatives, and gave them some of their gray hairs, or fragments of their clothing, or arms which they had carried in wars, and ordered them to preserve them as charms against misfortune and disease.

The females had their own observances and customs at times of birth, etc., of which I do not know the particulars, and perhaps they are not worth knowing. It is remarkable that with their talismans, and invocations, and other superstitious ceremonies it is a rule to admit no female and to impart no knowledge of these ceremonies to the other sex, the greatest disaster being threatened in case of infraction of this rule. For instance, a whale-hunter who had violated this law would be seized, before the stricken whale had yet expired, with violent nose-bleeding and swelling of the whole body, often ending in insanity or death. The sea-otter hunter was not subject to such terrible punishments, but he met with misfortune in the chase, and, though surrounded by sea-otters, could not kill a single one the animals laughing at him, gathering around his bidarka, and throwing water into his face in sport. The same happens to sea-otter hunters whose wives prove unfaithful during their absence, or whose sister is unchaste. The same strange conduct of the sea-otters was sometimes observed toward the lazy, evil-disposed, or disrespectful toward the aged. It is impossible for any belief to exist without some moral lesson contained in it, and we may consider that even the superstitions of the Aleuts led toward cleanliness of body and a careful execution of their duties, no matter how absurd and respectful the demeanor.

I will endeavor to give here briefly the moral code, which I believe is evidently contained or hidden in the mass of superstition among the early Aleuts :

First. The old men said it was necessary to respect parents because they gave us life and nursed us in sickness and brought us up with great trouble, full of kindness, and deprived themselves for our sake without knowing what we would do for them, and, therefore, we should sincerely love them, do all we could toward their support, remain with them, and care for them until their death ; if they should become blind or feeble we should take them by the hand and lead them. To disregard one's parents was considered the greatest and most dishonorable of crimes.

Second. If one had no father he should respect his oldest brother and serve him as he would a father, aud a brother himself must always aid his brother in war an well as in the chase, and each protect the other; but if anybody, disregarding this natural law, should go to live apart, curing only for himself, such a one should be discarded by his relatives in case of attack by enemies or animals, or in time of storms; and such dishonorable conduct would lead to general contempt.

Third. Feeble old men must be respected and attended when they need aid, and the young and strong should give them a share of their booty and help them through all their troubles, endeavoring to obtain in exchange their good advice only; and whoever acts thus will be long-lived. be fortunate in the chase and in war, and will not be neglected when he becomes old himself.

Fourth. The poor must not lie neglected, but assisted: not only not abused, but protected against abuse, because man does not always remain in the same condition, and even in the richest and most powerful tribes, as well as in the lowly and poor, sometimes quite unexpectedly their condition changes, and the rich will become poor and the poor rich, and therefore:

Fifth. During poverty they should be humble and respectful, and not offend the rich who divide with the poor.

Sixth. We should be hospitable ; every visitor should be received as liberally as possible, and feasted, in order that he, on his return to his people, may speak of us with praise.

Seventh. All who move to another village are called strangers during the first year, and such must not be abused, but aided and assisted in every way, aud considered as of the people. Under such they will sooner forget their own home and become accustomed to the new ; and in case of need will be defenders of the village.

Eighth. We must not be forward; it is better to listen than to speak in every condition of life. That is what made people in olden times long-lived and strong, because they talked but little. Every evil and misfortune springs from the tongue; therefore in olden times those who caused common misfortune by imprudent talk were frequently punished with death.

Ninth. The children were instructed to be kind in their intercourse with others; to refrain from selfishness; to be bold in case of hostile attacks, and disdain death, and to strive to accomplish some famous deed, such as avenging the death of their relatives, and so forth.

Tenth. The followiug offenses were considered as worthy of death or punishment: for instance, to abuse a companion without cause by word or deed, or to kill him (but to kill an enemy was quite another thing); to take another's property; to steal or rob (theft was not only a crime but a disgrace) ; to betray secrets of the councils of war ; to grumble at severe weather, cold, wind, or heat of the sun ; to talk unnecessarily and unfavorably of stars and clouds; to defile in any manner a sacred spot, or a stream of running water, so as to prevent fish from coming up, or to disturb the sea in the vicinity of the village, and thereby drive away the fish or game. Girls or unmarried females who gave birth to illegitimate children were to be killed for shame, and hidden; their children were called "anikshoum agoucha", that is, "hidden children.''*

Incest was considered the gravest crime, and was punished with great severity; it was believed always to be followed by the birth of monsters with walrus-tusks, beard, and other disfiguration.

*The Aleuts said and still maintain that illegitimate infants killed from shame would begin some time after being buried to cry and weep like new-born babes, and finally they would begin to walk around at night in the villages, appearing like little clouds, weeping also, and when many such children were observed the fathers of families assembled and tried to find out the guilty persons, and if the culprit would not confess they sometimes proceeded to torture. The, kindest father would not screen his favorite daughter in such a case; but when the guilty person was discovered she was smeared with paint and placed in a dark and bleak hovel. Here she was seated in a corner and covered.with a grass mat with two slits so as to expose the breast, and then she was obliged to sit in that position night after night in order that the hidden child might come and nurse and not disturb the virtuous women. Whenever there was evidence that a woman had nursed an infant during the night, her sin was forgiven. Sometimes a woman thus locked up would cry out in the night, and the men, with arms in their hands, would hurriedly enter the hut, when in her arms was found not a babe, but a small black bird. This bird wae killed with certain ceremonies, and torn into small fragments, and the nightly disturbance ceased forever.

The Aleuts still maintain that a failure to observe the customs of their forefathers, and epecially a willful neglect of the same is attended with all kinds of disasters and punishments. They always return good for good and evil for evil. It was considered praiseworthy to go to sea in times of gales and to make difficult landings. As a proof of such achievements they would mark their bodies in some way to indicate that they had been on some inaccessible cliff, or that they landed unaasisted with their bidarka at some spot where nobody had yet landed before. But still more praiseworthy it was to be brave in war. The first duty was to be kind to strangers, because their forefathers had been travelers, and they had all sprung from one father and one mother.

The light the life-giving principle: running water gave strength to the body, but the sea-water was still stronger, making men fearless and invincible. Therefore, whoever was in his youth afraid of the sea would be forced to bathe, and thereby be made strong and brave.

One of their sayings, was, "The wind is no river;" that is, the river runs always and never tops, but the wind sometimes stops. Another saying was, "A bear is not a man;" by which they meant that a bear is not so revengeful and bloodthirsty as a man. Another saying was, “Not out of every sweet root grows a sweet plant”; that is, good children do not always come from good parents.

The teachings of their faith and all customs were transmitted in two ways, either from father to son, or, more frequently, from uncle to nephew. This teaching may be called domestic. Another manner of propagating their doctrines was communal or public, when the teachers were not shamans but old men who had lived to a great age and become famous for their achievements and disinterest. Such old men considered it their duty to teach the young on every occasion, and this was done nearly every day, in the morning and in the evening; that is, when all were at home. The old man would go to the middle of the barabara for this purpose and seat himself and all the young people would surround him and listen attentively to all he said; even if he repeated the same advice for the hundredth time they would listen to him with respect, because they considered it their duty to do so.

Now let us speak of their present faith. The Aleuts, as well as the Kadiaks, are baptized Americans (i. e., natives), and are of Greek-Russian faith, which they adopted from Russia. The Aleuts may justly be called exemplary Christians, because they abandoned shamanism as soon as they received Christianity; not only the outward signs of it, such as masks and charms, which they used in their dances and invocations, but even the very songs in which they transmitted the deeds of their ancestors, and their former belief and customs forgotten without any compulsion. The first to convert and baptize them was the lerodiakon (or holy monk) Makar (a member of the Kadiak mission), who had been sent to the Aleuts from Kadiak in 1795. He did not have recourse to any violent measures in inducing them to be baptized, and if he had been inclined to forcible means he had not the power. The Aleuts received the new belief very willingly. The best proof of this lies in the fact that Father Makar traveled from place to place, to the most distant villages, without having any protector with the exception of one Russian servant. The Aleuts themselves transported him from place to place, fed him, and protected him on his errand of baptism. And from that time to the present the Aleuts have been God-fearing and religiously inclined. They willingly assemble for prayer wherever there is an opportunity for service, and especially when they are visited by a priest. During service of prayer they stand,in rapt attention and admiration, without turning to one side or the other, and without shifting from one foot to the other no matter how long the service. At the end one may look at the prints of their feet and count how many there were; and though they understand but very little of the teachings of the church they never slacken their attention during the service. All religions observances required of them they fulfill to the letter. I need not mention that they strictly observe the fast, because hunger goes for nothing with them for two or three days at a time. But nothing pleased me so much as the willingness, or rather the ardor, with which they listened word of God, their ardor being so great as to fatigue the most earnest teacher. This I can assert from personal experience During my journeys among them, whenever I arrived at a village, all at once left their avocations, no matter how important to their immediate future comfort; they collected around me at the first signal, all listening to me in rapt attention, forgetful of everything else; tender mothers sometimes disregarded their crying children, whom they had left behind in their huts. The strong and healthy would carry the old and feeble to the place of meeting.

When we compare the Aleuts with the Kadiaks, their neighbors, in a religious sense, there seems to be a great disparity. The Kadiaks practice shamanism to the present day, and all their former superstitions are still in full force, while among the Aleuts the former does not exist at all and the latter have almost disappeared. Only about one hundredth part of the Kadiaks fulfill the observances to any extent, and very few show any ardor or interest, while the Aleuts are, in that respect, not behind the best Christians of our time. Such a difference is all the more astonishing because theKadiaks have enjoyed the benefits of missionaries among them since 1794, but the Aleuts have had a resident priest among them only since 1824, having up to that time seen only Father Makar, their baptizer once, and for a very short time; and also two chaplains of naval vessels, in 1792 and 1821, also for a very short period, and then only at the principal village This is not a place to decide why the Kadiaks, with every facility for christianization, have remained only half Christians but it would be very curious to find a reason why the Aleuts so commonly and almost suddenly changed their belief--their simple and easy belief-for the very strictest, and why they show so much more interest than their neighbors. The principal reason for this I believe to lie their character. The Oonalashkans have more good qualities than bad, and consequently the seeds of the word of God find better and deeper soil and grow with greater speed. It must be acknowledged, however, that the contempt in which the shamans were held facilitated the work of the mission. Any other stronger reason inducing the Aleuts to accept their faith I cannot find. It is true we may say the Aleuts accepted Christianity because they had only a very vague and unsatisfactory belief that did not satisfy the demands of their souls, and that they had reason to fear the Russians and were eager to please them; and, third and last, because acceptance of Christianity exempted them from the payment of tribute. All these reasons may have induced them to change their faith, certainly could not make them the earnest observers of its rules that they are; but when we come to scrutinize these reasons they appear but weak. It is true that their former religion was unsatisfactory, but could the Christian faith be any more so to them at first? In the absence of good interpreters they could have but incomplete understanding of God and his attributes ; and could even that Christian faith be satisfying to their hearts when the first preacher of the same could not express himself sufficiently well in their language to explain its most beneficial mysteries, and forbade their own custom of polygamy? The Aleuts were very subservient, but we must acknowledge that the Russians never attempted to compel them to baptism in any way. As the most powerful reason may be considered the exemption of new converts from the payment of tribute, especially since they thereby escaped the dreaded oppression of tribute-gatherers; but if we consider the trifling value of such tribute, which they pay only at their option, and also that the exemption only continued for three years, even this reason appears insufficient to account for their earnestness in accepting the new faith.

The Christian faith was carried to America (I mean only Russian America) by the Russians. The commander of the first vessel which discovered the Aleutian island, Glottof, and his , companions were the first propagandists of Christianity in America. Glottof, during the first time of his stay at Oumnak, in 1759, established friendly relations with the native inhabitants that chief allowed him to baptize his son and to carry him away to Kamchatka. He lived here several years, and learned the Russian language and grammar, and then returned to his country in the capacity of supreme chief over all the islands. This convert, who may be considered the first among all our Americans was named named Ivan, with the surname of Glottof. He assisted greatly in spreading Christianity among the Aleuts. It is unknown that Glottof and his companions baptized anybody except the son of the chief, but we know that they erected at that place a large cross, on the site of which a chapel was subsequently erected in honor of Saint Nicholas, and in 1826 was replaced by a new one. (*a)

For some time after Glottofs visit to the island the Russians in the Oonalashka district forgot to baptize any more Aleuts, being occupied solely with their "pacification", as they called it, or rather extermination, and not before 1780, when the so-called pacification ceased, did the Russians once more begin to think of this subject. It was not so much Christian ardor as business considerations that induced the Russians to persuade the Aleuts to the acceptance of baptism, since the converted natives became more manageable, and attached, to a certain extent, to their god-fathers, giving their trade exclusively to them. Whatever the reasons were, the fact remains the same, that the first Russian hunters were the first baptizers of the Aleuts, and subsequently of the Kadiaks, thus paving the way and facilitating the work of the missionaries coming after them.

Shelikhof, the founder of the present company, included in his plans for the development of the Russian colonies the spread of Christianity and the erection of churches, and therefore on his return from Kadiak, in 1787, he petitioned the government for the appointment of a mission, which he promised to transport to the field of action and maintain at the sole expense of himself and his partners. His petition was answered, and a mission was detailed by the holy synod, under the command of the archimandrite loassaf, for preaching the word of God to the tribes annexed to the Russian dominion. A mission was fitted out with everything, and even with more than was necessary, by Shelikhof and his partners, and departed from St. Petersburg in 1793, arriving at Kadiak in the following autumn, where they began their labors at once. (*b)

Juvenal first visited Kadiak and baptized all the inhabitants; in the following year, 1795, he went to Nuchek, where he baptized 700 Chugachs, and then proceeded to Kenai and baptized all the people there; in 1796 he crossed over to the Aliaska peninsula and penetrated to the lake Ilyamna, where he ended his apostolic services with his life, having done more service to the church than all his companions. The cause of his death was his strong opposition to polygamy. It is said that when he was attacked by the savages Juvenal did neither fly nor defend himself, which he might have done successfully, but delivered himself unresistingly into the hands of his murderers, asking only for the safety of his companions, which was granted. The savages relate that after the missionary had been killed he rose up once more, walked toward his murderers, and spoke to them ; they fell upon him again, but he repeated his miracle several times. At last the savages became exasperated and cut him into pieces, and then only did the preacher of the word of God become silent. Father Makar proceeded to Oonalashka in 1795, and traveled over the whole district from Ounga to the Four Mountains, and baptized all Aleuts without exception. The other members of the mission confined their activity to holding services in the churches at their respective locations and teaching children in the schools, but Herman began from the very first a secluded life on a small island (Spruce island), devoting himself to prayer and agriculture. Subsequently he taught a few girls, orphans, in the Russian language and manual labor, and this small establishment was in a very good condition when visited by Baron Wrangell. Among the work of the Kadiak mission must be mentioned that in 1806 the monk Gideon, who visited the island in the ship Neva, translated the Lord's prayer into the Kadiak language, and it was sung in the churches after that time. Subsequently, however, it was neglected and finally lost. Mr. Shelikhof, who considered such a man not equal to the work of spreading the word of God in such a vast region, represented to the government the necessity for additional action, but the drowning of the bishop appointed and the death of Shelikhof himself put an end for the time being to the enterprise.

Baranof. having established Sitka, asked for a priest, and in 1816 the priest Alexei Sokolof arrived there. Subsequently, when the charter of the Russian-American Company was renewed, in 1821, they were ordered to maintain a sufficient number of priests in the colonies. The company petitioned to have them sent out, and the prayer was granted. Veniaminof arrived in Alaska in 1823; Frumenty Mordovskoi entered Kadiak in 1824, and a Creole, born at Atkha, Yakof Netzvetof, was assigned to his native island in 1825. This last-named worthy pastor did much toward the spread of the Christian faith; he subsequently transcribed my translations of the Evangel and catechism from the Oonalashkan into the Atkhan dialect.

At the present time we have in our American colonies four churches, one at Sitka, in honor of the archangel Michael, established in 1817; the second at Kadiak, in the name of the elevation of the cross, established in 1795; the third at Oonalashka, in honor of the resurrection of Christ, established in 1824; the fourth at Atkha, in the name of Saint Nicholas, established in 1825. Nushegak and the Redoute Saint Michael in the north have remained thus far without priests, since the priest of Kadiak, to whom the former properly belongs, finds it impossible to visit it, and the Oonalashka priest can do so but rarely. Many converts have been made in that region, and a church or mission will doubtless be established there before long. The following translations have been made in the Aleut tongue to assist in the spread of Christianity: A brief catechism that was printed by permission of the holy synod in 1831, at the instance of the American-Russian Company. The Evangel of Matthew, which the holy synod allowed to be used in manuscript, and a pamphlet entitled " Guide to the Short Road to the Heavenly Kingdom" was also used in manuscript. To the honor of the Aleuts it must be stated that they eagerly read these books as soon as presented to them in their own tongue.

DESCRIPTION OF FORMER CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS OF THE ATKHA ALEUTS. (omitted, but available in original on website.)


The Aleuts had twelve months in their year, the eleventh of which was longer than the others, to complete the full year.

Their seasons were :

Kankh, winter; kanikinga (after winter), spring.

Sakoodakh. summer; sakoodikinga (after summer), autumn.

The milky way was called inim sighida, from sighidak, linia alba, (from the navel downward).

Their months were as follows :

1. March-- Kadoogikh (first month), or Khisagoonakh (when straps are eaten--starvation).

2. April--Agliooigikh khisagoonakh (end of eating straps), or Sadagan kagikh (time for leaving houses).

3. May--Ichikh khookh, or Chigum tugida (month of flowers).

4. June--Chagalilim tugida, or Chagaligim tugida (month of breeding and hatching).

5. July--Sadignam tugida (when animals grow fat).

6. August--Oognam (or Ukhnam) tugida (warm month).

7. September--Chugulim tugida (when furs are good).

8. October--Kimadgim tugida (hunting-month, when seals come from the north).

9. November --Kimadgim kangin (after hunting-month).

10. December--Agalgugakh, or Agalgalukh (when seals are hunted in disguise).

11. January--Tugidigamakh (long mouth).

12. February--Anulgiliakh (cormorant month).