Alaska Education Native Schools Map 1919

This map shows the distribution of Native schools throughout the Territory of Alaska at this time period.

The very first school was established in Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island in 1784 by the Russians. The first boarding schools were established by Catholic, Moravian and Lutheran Churches. Schools sponsored by the Federal government were also established at this time. The first boarding school was established in Sitka in 1878 by Presbyterian missionaries.

One of the main objectives of these schools was to remove Native cultural influences and assimilate Native children into the Euro-American culture of that era. Students could not speak their language, wear their traditional clothing, eat their Native food, and they had to accept the history of Western civilization while at the same time forsaking their own history.

There was a great deal of trauma and abuse inflicted upon these children, with the highest rates of abuse coming from Christian operated schools.

In the District Court case for United States vs Sheldon Jackson (1885) it documents a Tlingit family and an individual’s attempt to free their children from the Presbyterian Boarding School at Sitka. The boarding school was claiming legal custody of the children and not allowing families to visit their children. Judge Ward McAllister ruled in favor of the Tlingit and individual, allowing the children to return home. Another case similar to this one took place in 1886 and this time Sheldon Jackson had Judge McAllister removed from hearing the case. This time the decision went against the family with the judge saying that the boarding school needed the authority to carry out its function as a boarding school. The family could not visit their children after this decision.

In 1893 there was a District Court case filed concerning a Juneau boarding school operator C.N. Replogle having a mother arrested for not returning her child to the custody of the school, the mother lost the case, and the child was returned to the school. There are many of these types of stories and much worse where there was mental and physical abuse that continued on a daily basis to both boys and girls.