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Education in the Territory of Alaska, 1887

Dateline: February 11, 2006

'The Alaskan' newspaper - Sitka, Alaska Territory, 1891

SITKA, ALASKA TERRITORY,     August 20, 1887



    During the week a representative of THE ALASKAN met the Hon. N. H. R. Dawson, Commissioner of Education of the United States, who arrived in Sitka on Saturday last, the 18th inst., from Port Townsend. The honorable gentleman, who left Washington on July 22d, says that he is exceedingly well pleased with what he has seen of the territory and will return with favorable impressions of its future. The commissioner has had some opportunities of estimating the value of Alaska's wealth in forestry, fisheries and mining, and on his return will be in a position to speak advisedly of the resources, industries and population of the territory.

    Mr. Dawson comes to Alaska, at the desire of the Secretary of the Interior, for the purpose of examining into all matters relating to the public schools, and to see that the system of education, recently promulgated by the department, is put into operation, as promptly as possible, and the schools in the territory made to conform to the same in its requirements. His purpose is to look into all matters necessary to a full understanding of school matters in the territory, and to see what provision is necessary for the building of school houses, and to ascertain the number of new buildings needed and the locations where new schools should be established To this end he has had several conferences with Governor Swineford, Judge Dawson and Dr. Jackson, who comprise the board of education, and has visited Fort Wrangel, Chilcoot, Port Chester, Juneau, Douglas Island, the Industrial School at Sitka, under the charge of Professor Kelley. The commissioner has seen the teachers at these points and acquired a good deal of valuable information with reference to scholastic matters. He finds that the subject of education is of great interest to the people of Alaska, particularly to the territorial board, which is zealously doing its work with the limited means at its disposal. The object and desire of the members of that board is to do all in their power to increase the efficiency of the schools and to extend the benefits of education to all the children of the territory. He has ascertained that the Indian pupils have a great desire to learn, and that it is the wish of their parents as well. He expressed himself as glad to know than all the officials of the territory are earnestly interested in the question of public education.

    The commissioner paid a visit to Metlakatla on the way up and was greatly impressed with what he saw and heard there. He believes that Mr. Duncan's followers will in their new settlement continue to increase and prosper, and bespeaks for them a wonderful future. Among these Indians are many skilled mechanics and artizans who by their valuable work will add considerably to the wealth and belongings of the settlers.

    Mr. Dawson is a fine type of the southern gentleman. He was appointed to him present position from Selma, Alabama, in August, 1886, and reflects great credit upon his state, and the administration of educational affairs. His personal appearance is peculiarly dignified and striking, and in all ways he is fitted as the head of one of the most important bureaus. The visit he makes to us and his close observation of our needs will be of great beneļ¬t to us in the future.

    The commissioner returns by the next Olympian.

The images below are the complete Alaska section of the federal report of the Department of Education for 1887, written by N. H. R. Dawson based on the trip described in the article above, and Sheldon Jackson of the Alaska Territorial Board of Education.
Education in Alaska Territory, 1887 Education in Alaska Territory, 1887 Education in Alaska Territory, 1887


The article and report have been reproduced exactly as originally published.