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The Death of Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, 1920

Arctic & Northern Biographies

The Weekly Star - Friday, October 22, 1920

The Death of Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, 1920

    By the lately reported death of the Ven. Hudson Stuck, archdeacon of the Yukon, the northland has lost a great scholar, Arctic lore and exploration a great exponent and the Indians and Eskimos an unflinching and ardent champion. As a missionary he has been in charge of Fort Yukon for about fifteen years; as archdeacon he has had the oversight of all the Episcopal missions in Alaska, and probably has a record of Alaskan travel never attained by any other.

    His successful ascent of Mt. McKinley a few years ago will be remembered, after many other climbers had failed im the attempt.

    Archdeacon Stuck was a luminous writer on northern topics. His "Voyages on the Yukon and Tributaries" is a narrative of summer travel over practically all the navigable streams of Alaska. "Ten Thousand Miles with a Dogsled" is a record of his winter journeys while visiting missions under his care. "The Ascent of Denali" won this praise from the London Spectator: "Few climbers have had such good fortune on a supreme occasion, but few have better deserved it." His last book, "A Winter Circuit of Our Arctic Coast," is an account of a journey he made in the winter of 1917-18, enlivened by constant anecdotes, by observations on Arctic hunting, the effects of cold, astronomical phenomena, and presents a notable panorama of Arctic scenery and pictures of the lives of the natives of the Eskimo villages, the workings of the government schools and of the missionaries. Along with this there are scores of delightful incursions into literature, ancient and modern, illustrations and explications drawn from an extensive reading and an intensive memory of all the annals of Arctic exploration and discovery. Unlike so many recent writers on Arctic themes, both his records and his deductions bear critical examination and at the same time the dry bones of fact are clothed with such fancy, and occasionally with such fury, that every page lives, and the reader is carried along as by a thrilling novel.

    As an example of his interest in and championship of the Indians of the interior, one passage will suffice. He was at the first Indian encampment of his long journey:

    "The runs of silver and dog salmon scarce came at all and the whole fish catch had been the least within recent recollection. Here in November many natives were cooking corn-meal and tallow for their dogs, both imported and bought at war prices. This may not seem the place to speak upon the necessity of the salmon to the native life, and to denounce the recent iniquity of permitting salmon canneries at the mouth of the Yukon, yet dog feed is one of the most important winter requisites, and has the most intimate conection with travel. Disguised as a war measure for increasing the world's food supply (it has become almost a public duty, not to say "camouflaged") it is in reality only one more instance of the way in which the people of Alaska are deprived of their resources by commercial greed. A government which permits the natives of the Yukon to be robbed of their natural supply must presently face the alternative of feeding them itself or letting them starve. The Indians of the plains were largely exterminated because white settlers needed their lands. Free for ever from such danger, shall we let the Indians of interior Alaska be exterminated because a greedy packing company, already grown rich on the coast, needs the fish of the inland rivers also?"

    It was for the double purpose of seeing his last book through the press, and of carrying on in Washington a crusade against this same greedy cannery that Archdeacon Stuck recently spent several months in the United States, from which he had but returned in August, to resume his work at Fort Yukon, when he fell a victim to that disease which has brought so many Alaskans to an untimely end. Mrs. White, postmistress at Fort Yukon, died from the same cause a few days previously.