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Dr. Sheldon Jackson lectured in Sanders Theatre last evening on "Alaska and its Indians." A large audience gathered, in spite of the disagreeable weather, and heard an interesting account of a remote and greatly misjudged portion of the United States. Dr. Jackson first described the vast extent of Alaska, stating that it was almost equal in size to all the states east of the Mississippi, and its natural resources. He said that the income to our national treasury from the fur industry alone had more than paid the price of purchase from Russia. Besides the seals and fur-bearing animals, there are vast quantities of fish in the neighboring waters, forests which surpass those of Maine, great coal fields, and petroleum and precious metals in abundance. The climate of the southern coast in winter is as mild as that of Virginia, and its only drawback is rain.
Most of the natives of Alaska are industrious and religious. They are degraded by a superstition which attributes all misfortune to evil spirits. There is a class of "medicine men" who devote their lives to propitiating these evil spirits, and who think to increase their power by eating human corpses Slavery in its worst forms is prevalent all over the country. The masters have entire control over their slaves and often kill a dozen or more as a mere display of wealth. The condition of the women is so wretched that babies are often killed rather than allowed to grow up to misery.
The great possibilities of progress and civilization among the people are shown by two experiences. The first is that of Mr. Duncan, an English missionary, who landed at Alaska thirty-five years ago. His efforts to spread the gospel were received enthusiastically by the people, and he soon gained so much power that the "medicine men" tried to kill him, and he withdrew to settle in a new place with his followers. The dwellers in the new village were placed under strict pledges to abstain from idleness and vice, and a model town soon grew up. Another proof of capabilities of the natives is the success of the schools established from the scanty appropriations of the United States, When the first school was opened in Sitka over one hundred boys appeared, eager to be educated, and within a month three hundred adults had also asked permission to attend. When winter came many of the pupils slept in the school room because they could not study in their dark buts. Soon a boarding school was established, which has been constantly swelled in numbers by fugitives from slavery and persecution, and girls, who are now admitted as well as boys. All the people of Alaska now ask for is more money for educational purposes, more missionaries and good rulers.
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