Deisheetaan family tree


Because the family tree is so confusing I thought I would post this nice family tree from Mrs. Angela Sidney’s recounting in “Life Lived as a Story”.

Minnie Shotridge Moore


I can’t resist posting this sweet family portrait of Minnie Moore 1874-1916 (Mrs. Ben Moore or Lingit Sai-yet) and her three children taken in 1898. In his book “New Indians” unpublished, 2010, Dan Henry says that she was scorned by local Skagway women and her “half-breed” children were taunted by classmates. In 1906 they moved to Victoria. I will post the names of the kids later when I get them.

J.B. Moore Collection

Dawson Charlie


Kaa Goox was a Canadian Tagish/Tlingit First Nation member of the wolf clan, born in 1866. His wife was Sadusge Annie. He was one of the co-discoverers of gold that led to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon. He was the nephew of Skookum Jim Mason. He staked one of the first three claims in the Klondike, along with his uncle and George Carmack. Kate Carmack was his aunt. Storyteller Angela Sidney was a niece.

Pierre Berton incorrectly called him Tagish Charlie in his book.
He died December 26, 1908 in Carcross when he fell off the bridge and drowned. He was only 42 years old. Seen above is his monument in the Carcross Cemetery.

Gonakadeit the Monster

Tlingit legend Gonakadeit is the Sea-Wolf pictured above.

Gunakadeit is based on a story told by Katishan, chief of the Kaasx’agweid of Wrangell, to ethnographer John Swanton in 1904. It was published in “Tlingit Myths and Texts” in 1909. The story chronicles a man who turns into a sea monster. This creature, who is part wolf, part whale, figures in numerous folk tales about a young man who uses the skin of a sea creature for night fishing; he is caught by a pair of whales who punish his deception by transforming him into a creature of the sea.

While in some stories he brings prosperity and good luck to a village in crisis, in other stories he is an evil sea creature that comes up in the fog to drag unsuspecting visitors in small boats down to the bottom of the sea.

On days when the dragon’s breath covers the inlet, I often think of Gonakadeit and the poor souls over the years who have drowned out there.

Johnnie Johns


Happy Birthday to Johnnie Johns who was born in the midst of the Gold Rush at Tagish on this day, July 10, 1898. He was the eldest son of Maria and Tagish Johns and was a member of the Crow clan of the Deishheetaan tribe. His Tlingit name was Yeil Shaan, which means Old Crow.

During his lifetime, his contributions towards the development of the Yukon were numerous. At the age of 19, he started his own guiding outfit. During his time as an outfitter he was known as one of the top ten guides in the world. As a life-long trapper and fisherman, these talents were second to none. He helped blaze the way for the construction of the Alaska Highway.

He was one of Yukon’s best gems and most widely respected elders, who generated warmth and kindness. His domain was the outdoors and all it had to offer. He sang, drummed and danced the stars to bed.

Johnnie Johns died in 1988.

from A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

Floating Cottages in Dyea


After the big earthquake in 1903, apparently the beaches in Dyea were shifted in such a way that the tide came in a mile further than before. This caused some of the abandoned cabins and cottages to float away.
The New York Times of July 6, 1903 reported that some “Chilkat Indians …were picking up these cottages and floating them to shore between Dyea and Pyramid harbor. The chief of the Chilkats required the braves who had retrieved more than one, to share with the less fortunate of the tribe.”

New York Times July 6, 1903.

Judge Justin Woodward Harding


Justin Woodward Harding was born on December 19, 1888 and died on August 15 1972. He was a Major in World War One. He was appointed U.S. Attorney in 1921 for the First District in the Alaska Territory and later in 1927 as U.S. District Judge. And it is here that he became an Alaskan Hero. Here is the story that started on December 7, 1929 (that other infamous day in history):

“Irene Jones was a young girl, born of mixed Tlingit and white heritage. She lived in the City of Ketchikan, Alaska. In 1929 at the age of twelve, she tried to attend her local public school. She had all of the qualifications of children, who are entitled to admission and are admitted to the public school under Alaskan law. Irene was in fact a very bright and engaging student. She started attending classes at the Ketchikan school [seen above] on September 3, 1929, and was a delight to her new teacher. However, two days later she arrived at the doors of the school, to find Superintendent Anthony E. Karnes waiting for her with his arms folded and a serious expression on his face. She was sent home by Karnes on the grounds that she was of Indian descent and that she and “all of her kind should go to the Indian school”. Her parents, William Paul and Nettie Jones, made numerous pleas to the Ketchikan School Board, but to no avail. On September 10, 1929 they filed a suit on Irene’s behalf for her to be admitted to the local public school.

In 1905 Congress established a territorial school system in Alaska to provide education for “white children and children of mixed blood who lead a civilized life”. Based on this law, the legislature of Alaska established a system of free schooling for children within its jurisdiction and did not make a distinction in regard to race or color. The 1905 congressional act also mandated that education of the Eskimos and Indians in Alaska remain under the direction and control of the U.S. government, Secretary of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. The City of Ketchikan established a school system where white and mixed blood students attended schools together. However on December 7, 1928 the Ketchikan School Board adopted a resolution that modified this system. This rule said that the Ketchikan School Board would accept only those students in its locality “who are not acceptable to the United States Bureau of Education”. This meant that the School Board would no longer accept any child of Indian or Eskimo descent, including those of mixed blood.
Irene Jones’ attorney argued that the School Board violated rights provided Irene under the 14th Amendment. He presented evidence which showed that Mr. A. E. Karnes, the Superintendent of Ketchikan School District, led the effort to pass the December 7, 1928 School Board resolution to prevent children of native descent from attending Ketchikan schools. Mr. Karnes was also reported to have said to Irene: “We will get rid of all the other Native children too.” Irene’s attorney also gave other examples which showed that a school district could not override the laws of a state legislature or Congress. As a result, federal district judge, Justin W. Harding, ruled that the Ketchikan School Board had discriminated against Irene Jones and its December 7th resolution was not valid. In his final decision on November 29, 1929, Judge Harding ordered that Irene be admitted to the public school and that the School Board pay her attorney’s fees.”

And as for Karnes? Well, in 1939 he was promoted to Alaska‚Äôs Commissioner of Education, according to “A History of the Nome, Alaska Public Schools:1899 to 1958 From the Gold Rush To Statehood”, a thesis by John Poling. Karnes later retired to California and died in 1970 in Lake Elsinore.

from the court case, National Archives in Philadelphia online: Irene Jones v. R. V. Ellis et al.

George Dickinson


George Dickinson ran the Northwest Trading Post with his wife, Sarah, a Tongass Tlingit as early as 1880. In 1886 he partnered with J.J. Healy at the trading post in Dyea. He became ill and died in San Francisco on this day, November 29, 1888.
His obituary in the Juneau City Mining Record of November 29,1888 gave his age at death as 45. Sometime later, the Healy and Wilson trading post is seen above in this Anton Vogee picture.

Neufeld:Juneau City Mining Record Nov 29 article; Daniel Lee Henry book online excerpt; San Francisco Call.

Auto Accident 1955


On this day, October 4, 1955 there was an auto accident on mile 34 of the Haines Highway. The two men killed were Lee Edward Donnelly age 55 and Paddy Duncan, age 90. They were both fishermen and Paddy had once been a Tlingit Policeman which is odd considering that in Klukwan he once murdered a man while drunk.
“December 4, 1936 Paddy Duncan, Indian of Champagne Landing, is charged with the murder of Harton Kane in October 1936, is sentenced to hang March 23, 1937.” This from “Strange Things Done” by Coates.
Paddy was sent to the penitentiary but then parolled. He came back to Haines in 1949. He was a passenger with Donnelly when the vehicle he was riding in left the highway and turned over.

Here is a photo of the Klukwan band from the early 1900’s.

Coates; Cheechako news article October 1936.

Sophie Matthews


On this day, September 27, 1938 Sophie Matthews died and was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. She was 76 years old, a Tlingit native born in Klukwan in 1862 and her native name was Kxa Gis Ooh. She married William Edward Matthews who came to Skagway in 1888 from St. Louis Missouri and was a farmer.
Their son William Clarence Matthews also married a woman named Sophie who died young, at 26, in 1921 and is buried in the Cemetery in Dyea. See her grave in the picture above. Their two daughters, Julia and Mable died as little girls in 1920 also probably from the influenza epidemic and are buried together in Dyea. There are quite a few descendants of the Matthews clan that still live in Skagway.

Skagway death record.