History of slavery in Alaska

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The history of slavery in Alaska is different from that of the other states that comprise the United States of America. Whereas the continental United States mostly saw enslavement of Africans brought across the Atlantic Ocean, in Alaska indigenous people, and some whites, enslaved indigenous people from other tribes.

The Haida and Tlingit tribes held slaves.[1][2] Some of these enslaved people escaped to the Ebbits who took them in. This in turn brought forth the wrath of the Haida and Tlingit, which resulted in the Ebbits losing territory to the aggrieved tribes.[3]

Slavery was abolished in all states under the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which took effect on December 18, 1865. When Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867, slavery became illegal in Alaska. When the Ebbits discovered this, thinking it was due to Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, they built a totem pole in Abraham Lincoln's honor. A common addition to the story is that one group of Tlingit was escaping another, and was told by an American ship that Lincoln had stopped slavery. However, some authorities say that the totem pole was actually built by the proslavery Tlingit to shame Lincoln, not to honor him. The totem was 55 feet tall and bore the likeness of Lincoln wearing a silk hat and frock coat. The totem is currently at the Alaska State Museum in the state capital of Juneau, Alaska.[3][4][5]

In 1903 there were still documented cases of slavery in the territory. Aleutian girls could be purchased by wealthy families to do the housework, and were often not allowed to participate in child play or become educated. These girls tended to come from the Atta Islands.[6]

From 1911 until the passage of the Fur Seal Act in 1966, the inhabitants of the Pribilof Islands were governed directly by employees of the United States federal government, under conditions which the Tundra Times described in 1964 as slavery "in milder form perhaps than existed in the Deep South, but slavery nonetheless"; these conditions included being paid for their labor in food rather than in money (until 1950), being forcibly resettled, being denied suffrage, being denied freedom of assembly, and being denied freedom of movement, all on the grounds that they did not count as American citizens.[7]

In 2001, four individuals were arrested for enslaving six Russian females, two of whom were only sixteen, for the purpose of having them perform in strip clubs, under threat of violence if they did not comply.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Donald, Leland. Aboriginal Slavery on the Northwest Coast of North America. University of California Press. 1997
  2. ^ Ruby, Robert H. Indian Slavery in the Pacific Northwest. Arthur H. Clark. 1993
  3. ^ a b Tlingit Native American art
  4. ^ Indian Country: One Totem, Many Stories
  5. ^ Classical Values :: They wouldn't lie to tourists, would they?
  6. ^ Girl Slaves in Alaska; Principal of Territorial Schools Tells of Traffic. New York Times December 19, 1903
  7. ^ SLAVES of the fur seal HARVEST, from the Cascadia Times; published Winter 2005; page 18-19