Alaska: American Indians

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Alaska is from an Aleut word, "alaxsxaq," meaning "great land" or "that which the sea breaks against".

Native American affairs in Alaska were supervised by the Office of Education, Alaska Division, until 1931. In that year, the Office of Indian Affairs (soon to become the Bureau of Indian Affairs) took over the responsibilities of overseeing the relationship between Alaskan natives and the federal government.

Tribes and Bands of Alaska

Ahtena, Aleut, Athapascan, Dihai-Kutchin, Eskimo, Haida, Han, Ingalik, Inupiat, Koyukon, Kutcha-Kutchin, Nabesna, Niska, Natsit-Kutchin, Tanaina, Tanana, Tennuth-Kutchin, Tlingit, Tranjik-Kutchin, Tsimshian, Vunta-Kutchin, Yupik

Inuit is used for Eskimos living in Canada.


  • Hodge, Frederick Webb., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Washington D.C.:Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology, Bulletin #30 1907.
  • Swanton, John W. The Indian Tribes of North America,  Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin #145, 1984. (ISBN 0-8063-1730-2   LC 2002117802)


From the mid-1800s, the official policy of the United States government toward the American Indian was to confine each tribe to a specific parcel of land called a reservation. Agencies were established on or near each reservation. A government representative, usually called an agent (or superintendent) was assigned to each agency. Their duties included maintaining the peace, making payments to the Native Americans based on the stipulations of the treaties with each tribe, and providing a means of communication between the native population and the federal government.

Sometimes, a single agency had jurisdiction over more than one reservation. And sometimes, if the tribal population and land area required it, an agency may have included sub-agencies.

The boundaries of reservations, over time, have changed. Usually, that means the reservations have been reduced in size. Sometimes, especially during the later policy of "termination," the official status of reservations was ended altogether.

The following list of reservations has been compiled from the National Atlas of the United States of America[1], the Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America[2], and other sources. Those reservations named in bold are current federally-recognized reservations, with their associated agency and tribe(s). Others have historically been associated with the state or are not currently recognized by the federal government.

  • Annette Island Reservation; Federal, under the jurisdiction of Metlakatla Field Office, Tribes: Tsimposhian
  • Craig Reeservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Prince of Wales Island, Tribe: Tlingit
  • Hoonah Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Chicagof Island, Tribe: Tlingit
  • Hydaburg Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Prince of Wales Island, Tribe: Haida
  • Kake Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Kupreanof Island, Tribe: Tlingit
  • Klawock Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Prince of Wales Island, Tribe: Tlingit

Indian Schools

The Office of Indian Affairs (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) established a network of schools throughout the United States, beginning with Carlisle Indian School, established in 1879. Some of these schools were day schools, usually focusing on Indian children of a single tribe or reservation. Some were boarding schools which served Indian children from a number of tribes and reservations.

In addition, other groups such as various church denominations established schools specifically focusing on American Indian children. (read more...)

The following list of Indian Schools in Alaska has been compiled from Hill's Office of Indian Affairs...[3], Hill's Guide to Records in the National Archives Relating to American Indians[4], and others.

Many school records are included in the agency records. In 1950, an estimated 2950 Alaska Native students attended the territorial schools. Another 4200 Native students attended one of the approximately 100 community day schools provided and manned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Finally, government-run boarding schools accounted for nearly 1000 more Native students in elementary and high school grades. Perhaps 2000 school-age Native children attended no school.

  • Juneau Agency school records 1927-1952. United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Family History Library film 1st of nine 1030793 
  • Mt. Edgcumbe, near Sitka, a high school age boarding school.
  • White Mountain, 90 miles east of Nome, another high school age boarding school.
  • Wrangell Institute, in southeast Alaska,an elementary age boarding school, with about 200 pupils.

Agencies of the Bureau of Indian Affair


  • Hill, Edward E., The Office of Indian Affairs 1824-1880: Historical Sketches, Clearwater publishing Co., Inc., 1974
(Edition for 1967 published under title: Historical sketches for jurisdictional and subject heading used for the letters received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-80.)

Family History Library

for a complete list of records search the Family History Library Catalog by Tribe and Locality

See also:

Alaska - Church for missions

Alaska_History for a calendar of events

Alaska - Military for a list of forts


  1. National Atlas of the United States of America -- Federal Lands and Indian Reservations Available online.
  2. Isaacs. Katherine M., editor. Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America. U.S. Data Sourcebook, Volume 11 Appendices, Bureau of Indian Affairs List of American Indian Reservations, Appendix E, Indian Reservations. Omnigraphics, Inc., 1991.
  3. Hill, Edward E. The Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880: Historical Sketches, Clearwater Publishing Co., Inc. 1974. (Family History Library book 970.1 H551o.)
  4. Hill, Edward E. (comp.). Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Washington DC: National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1981. (FHL book 970.1 H551g.)