The Pribilof Islands, Preserving the Legacy (2008)

August 24, 2008

The federal government’s legacy at the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, began with the purchase of Russian America from Imperial Russia in 1867. Enterprising American businessmen rushed to the Pribilof Islands in 1868 to exploit the Alaska Territory &rsquo

The federal government’s legacy at the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, began with the purchase of Russian America from Imperial Russia in 1867. Enterprising American businessmen rushed to the Pribilof Islands in 1868 to exploit the Alaska Territory ’s most valuable and most easily exploitable natural resource known at the time, the northern fur seal (see Island Settingand Island Natural Resources). In 1869, the government deployed the military and customs agents to protect the islands’ Native inhabitants and the fur-seal herds. Congress mandated the islands a “special reservation for Government purposes.” In 1870, the government determined to treat the islands as a business monopoly, a paradigm that continued for more than one hundred ten years. Aleuts, indigenous to the region, provided the mainstay labor force just as they had for the Russians. They became wards of the government, and according to some, “slaves of the harvest” (see Island History). Their civil liberties would be compromised for more than eighty years (see Island Culture Today).

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on 06/12/2018

Subsistence Harvest Northern Fur Seal