« PreviousContinue »
THE GOVERNOR OF ALASKA.
OFFICE OF THE EXECUTIVE,
Sitka, Alaska, October 1, 1902. SIR: I have the honor to submit herewith my annual report on affairs in Alaska for 1902:
Nor, while fully acknowledging our duties to others, need we forget our duty to our own country. The Pacific seaboard is as much to us as the Atlantic. As we grow in power and prosperity, so our interest will grow in that farthest West which is the immemorial East. The shadow of our destiny has already reached the shores of Asia. The might of our people already looms large against the world-horizon, and it will loom even larger as the years go by. No statesman has a right to neglect the interests of our people in the Pacific-interests which are important to all our people, but which are of most importance to our people who have built thriving States on the Western slope of our continent.
These words were uttered by the President last Memorial Day at Arlington. At that moment he had in mind the question arising out of our possession of the Philippines. Now, if instead we turn our eyes to the Northwest and apply these thoughts to the conduct of our statesmen, how many of them can escape the accusation of being neglectful? We have owned Alaska for thirty-five years, yet how many of our statesmen have taken the trouble to inform themselves as to its worth, its geographical position on the globe, and its strategic importance in competing for the commerce of the Orient? What Senator or Representative since Sumner's day, after all these years of quiet possession, has stood in his chamber and given a masterly exposition of what Alaska is, and has prophesied with full assurance what she is to become under the beneficence of our political institutions? On the contrary, a feeling grew stronger and was assiduously cultivated by a few that A laska was a white elephant. This came to a climax and got expression in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury for 1877, wherein he recommended the abolition of Alaska as a customs district. This was by a man wbose long service in the House and Senate had made him eminent as a statesman. Gradually Alaska is receiving more attention, but it is more from the public press than from our lawmakers. Some things have been done under great pressure, but we feel that Congress has pursued a general policy of neglect since we bave owned Alaska. Congress rules Alaska absolutely, and it is only at the hands of Congress that our institutions can be extended and built up. The first step, which should have been taken and which has been taken in every other instance since the ordinance of 1787, is to encourage the people to move forward and possess the land.
LAND LAWS. This subject has been brought to the attention of Congress by every governor in almost every annual report since 1884. The present incumbent has brought this matter up each year and has tried to show how all progress is hampered, and, in many places, effectually blocked by the withholding of these laws. It is not possible for the ordinary man and family to come here and establish a home, for he can not obtain security of title. For this reason the great industry of agriculture in its various departments is held in check. Those who are ready to make the first venture in building railroads hesitate because they know that the people bave no encouragement to settle on the lands. Those who are ready to introduce colonies of desirable people well fitted to prosper in this latitude, from Finland and other parts of northern Europe, can not because they can give these people no certainty that they can obtain title to land. That this subject may be clearly understood and, at the risk of repeating what has been said in former reports, the different acts of Congress and the regulations thereunder, are given in much detail. “Iterum, iterumque” is a good motto in many of the affairs of life. It is difficult to determine from the treaty of cession what landed rights are possessed by those inhabitants and their heirs who chose to remain and who were promised admission to all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States and were to be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion.
Article II speaks of private, individual property, and says:
It is, however, understood and agreed that the churches which have been built in the ceded territory by the Russian Government shall remain the property of such members of the Greek Oriental Church, resident in the Territory, as may choose to worship therein.
Does this give title to the land upon which the churches were built; and if so, how much beyond what is actually covered by the buildings? It was supposed that the inventories which were made out by the two commissioners at the transfer, and who were ordered by their governments to do so, were treaty titles. But in the case of Kinkead v. United States (150 U. S., 483), the decision of the court upsets any such' notion, for they say:
The truth is that the whole case of the claimants depends upon the question whether the Government was bound by the proceedings of the commissioners in the execution of the treaty. As we have already expressed the opinion that they possessed no power to vary the language of the treaty, or to determine questions of title or ownership, it results that their action was not binding upon the Government.
Then those former inhabitants, who chose to remain and who were granted certificates of ownership, will have to secure their titles from the United States.
Immediately after the transfer from Russia to the United States many people desired to move into the Territory and settle. This was not looked upon with favor, but, on the contrary, seemed to alarm the authorities, as may be inferred from the following:
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, D. C., October 26, 1867. SIR: In reply to your communication of the 24th instant in relation to attempts of American citizens to acquire preemption rights to lands at Sitka, in the newly acquired
Territory of Alaska, I have the honor to inclose for your information a copy of a report this day made to me by the Commissioner of the General Land Office upon the subject of your inquiries. Such claims and settlements are not only without the sanction of law, but are in direct violation of the provisions of the laws of Congress applicable to public domain secured to the United States by any treaty made with a foreign nation, and, if deemed necessary and advisable, military force may be used to remove the intruders.
This Department has no officers at Sitka, nor in any other part of the “Russian purchase," and must rely on the State Department to cause the necessary orders in the premises to be communicated to our authorities there. I have the honor to be, Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
0. H. BROWNING, Secretary. Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR,
General Land Office, October 26. SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department letter of yesterday inclosing a communication of the 24th from the honorable Secretary of State, by which the Department is advised that citizens of the United States are attempting to make claims and settlements at Sitka, within the “Russian purchase," under the town-site and preemption laws, and I have the honor to state that such settlements are illegal and contrary to law. (See act of March 3, 1807, vol. 2, p. 445, United States Statutes.)
In the absence of specific legislation by Congress providing for the organization of land districts within the “Russian purchase" and the extension of our system of surveys over the same, settlements and claims under the town-site and preemption laws are unlawful and can not be recognized under existing laws. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH S. Wilson, Commissioner. Hon. O. H. BROWNING, Secretary of the Interior.
Mr. Seward to General Grant.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, October 28, 1867. GENERAL: In the absence of specific legislation by Congress for the organization of land districts in Alaska, claims of preemption and settlements are not only without the sanction of law but are in direct violation of laws applicable to the public domain. Military force may be used to remove intruders if necessary. Will you have the goodness to instruct Major-General Halleck to this effect by telegraph, and request him to communicate the instruction to Major-General Rousseau at Sitka? I have the honor to be, General, your obedient servant,
William H. SEWARD. Gen. U. S. GRANT, Secretary of War ad Interim.
Mr. Seward to Mr. de Stoeckl.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, October 29, 1867. SIR: I have the honor to inclose for your information a copy of a letter of yesterday to General Grant, the Secretary of War ad interim, embodying an instruction which the President has directed to be sent by telegraph to Major-General Halleck, by him to be promptly communicated to Major-General Rousseau, at Sitka, with a view to preventing premature and illegal attempts to occupy land in Alaska. Accept, sir, a renewed assurance of my very high consideration.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD. Mr. EDWARD DE STOECKL.
This, no doubt, was wormwood to Secretary Seward, but it was all based on “the absence of specific legislation by Congress.”
The country was under the rule of the War Department until June, 1877, when the troops were withdrawn and the country practically abandoned. The Treasury Department, for the most part by a deputy collector, ruled for two years, until a massacre was threatened by Katleean and his tribe at Sitka, when the Naval Department assumed charge and held it until the arrival of the civil officers, appointed by President Arthur under the organic act of May 17, 1884. Section 8 of this remarkable piece of legislation created a land district of the whole cession, and a United States land office with exofficio surveyorgeneral, register and receiver. It is as follows:
SEC. 8. That the said district of Alaska is hereby created a land district, and a United States land office for said district is hereby located at Sitka. The commissioner provided for by this act to reside at Sitka shall be an ex officio register of said land office, and the clerk provided for by this act shall be ex officio receiver of public moneys, and the marshal provided for by this act shall be ex officio surveyor-general of said district, and the laws of the United States relating to mining claims, and the right incident thereto, shall, from and after the passage of this act, be in full force and effect in said district, under the administration thereof herein provided for, subject to such regulations as may be made by the Secretary of the Interior, approved by the President: Provided, That the Indians or other persons in said district shall not be disturbed in the possession of any lands actually in their use or occupation or now claimed by them, but the terms under which such persons may acquire title to such lands is reserved for future legislation by Congress: And provided further, That parties who have located mines or mineral privileges therein under the laws of the United States applicable to the public domain, or who have occupied and improved or exercised acts of ownership over such claims shall not be disturbed therein, but shall be allowed to perfect their title to such claims by payment as aforesaid: And provided also, That the land, not exceeding six hundred and forty acres at any station now occupied as missionary stations among the Indian tribes in said section, with the improvements thereon erected by or for such societies, shall be continued in the occupancy of the several religious societies to which said missionary stations respectively belong until action by Congress. But nothing contained in this act shall be construed to put in force in said district the general land laws of the United States.
Since that day mining has prospered, for it has had as much encouragement by the extension of the mining laws of the United States and the rights incident thereto as this industry has had in any State or Territory, and many mineral patents have been issued. The terms under which title might be acquired by persons who had squatted and waited for years were reserved for future legislation by Congress; that is, agriculture, stock raising, lumbering, and coal mining received no encouragement. Those who believed that they could undertake such enterprises with success simply had to wait and hope.
On March 3, 1869, the islands of St. Paul and St. George were, by act of Congress, made a special reservation for Government purposes, and no one is allowed to land on these islands unless he has permission from the Secretary of the Treasury. (See Revised Statutes, sec. 1959.) President Benjamin Harrison, by Executive order June 21, 1890, reserved certain lands in and about Sitka, Juneau, Douglas Island, and Fort Wrangell for public buildings, barracks, parks, wharves, coaling stations, and for military and naval purposes. (See Appendix A for the whole of this order.) The next step in this land question occurred March 3, 1891, when, at the very end of the session of Congress, an act was passed and approved for the repeal of the timberculture laws and for other purposes. Sections 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 of this law pertain to Alaska They are given in Appendix B. They have reference to lands which may be entered for town sites and for the purpose of trade or manufacture, and the setting aside as a reservation for the Metlakahtla Indians the body of lands known as Annette Islands. There has been great confusion in the interpretation and execution of this law, especially in regard to those provisions pertaining to trade and manufacture.
There has been a long and costly struggle for the applicants who have obtained very few patents. The sums which they have put up for field and office work, and for which they have never received an acre in return, will aggregate a large amount. It has been a veritable wrestling match, with the General Land Office standing victor in almost every contest. It is astonishing to see what grips and underholds can be taken in one of these onsets.
The next specific legislation was approved May 14, 1898, entitled “An act extending the homestead laws and providing for right of way for railroads in the district of Alaska, and for other purposes.” The thirteen sections of this act may be found in Appendix C. Section 1 relates to homestead right in Alaska and provides:
SECTION 1. That the homestead land laws of the United States and the rights incident thereto, including the right to enter surveyed or unsurveyed lands, under provisions of law relating to the acquisition of title through soldiers' additional homestead rights, are hereby extended to the district of Alaska, subject to such regulations as may be made by the Secretary of Interior; and no indemnity, deficiency, or lieu lands pertaining to any land grant whatsoever originating outside of said district of Alaska shall be located within or taken from lands in said district: Provided, That no entry shall be allowed extending more than eighty rods along the shore of any navigable water, and along such shore a space of at least eighty rods shall be reserved from entry between all such claims, and that nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to authorize entries to be made or title to be acquired to the shore of any navigable waters within said district: And be it further provided, That no homestead shall exceed eighty acres in extent.
A stranger reading over this law might get the impression that it is on the whole a pretty fair law for Alaska, but when he begins to inquire how it has worked for the four years in which it has been in force he will begin to understand why we groan. In the first place, not a single homestead entry has been allowed, for the reason that the homestead land laws of the United States apply only upon lands which have been surveyed, and not an acre has been marked out for settlement. Nowhere has there been established a meridian or a base line. Why? The answer is the same as was given by Secretary Seward in October, 1867—“the absence of specific legislation by Congress.”
At the instance of Commissioner Hermann, of the General Land Office, the sundry civil bill which was approved March 3, 1899, extended the system of public surveys to the district of Alaska, and included Alaska among the States and Territories which were to share in the sum of $325,000 voted for public surveys. The same amount was voted in 1900 and Alaska was included, but no land was surveyed for homestead purposes. A similar amount was voted for the year ending June 30, 1901, and $5,000 was the part apportioned to Alaska, and yet not a line has been run.
The surveyor-general advertised for bids to establish an initial monument and run the necessary base and meridian lines in the Copper River Valley. He addressed personal letters to every deputy land surveyor. The law fixes the maximum price for this kind of work. No surveyor who is acquainted with the conditions in that part of the country felt that he could earn anything, even at the highest rate allowed; so no bids came in. At last, Mr. A. J. Adams, of Valdez, on