The online tool for teaching with documents, from the National Archives

Assimilation and the Native People of Metlakahtla, Alaska

Seeing the Big Picture

All documents and text associated with this activity are printed below, followed by a worksheet for student responses.

Introduction

In 1887 a group of 826 Tsimshian People left their homes in British Columbia, Canada, and traveled by canoe to the waters of the U.S. to their new home in Alaska. The man who was responsible for taking them to this new place was Mr. William Duncan, a lay missionary of the Anglican Church, whose specific mission was to Christianize the Tsimshian people. (Note: Native Americans are generally known as "First People" in Canada and "Native Alaskans" in Alaska.)

Match these photos to their descriptions, looking for evidence of assimilation of American customs as you go. At the end you will be asked to review the advantages and disadvantages of assimilation.


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Worksheet

Assimilation and the Native People of Metlakahtla, Alaska

Seeing the Big Picture

Examine the documents and text included in this activity. Consider how each document or piece of text relates to each other and create matched pairs. Write the text or document number next to its match below. Write your conclusion response in the space provided.

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A group of Tsimshian getting ready to play a typical North American sport.


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A Tsimshian wedding in Metlakahtla including the wedding band.


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Tsimshian enjoying a picnic lunch.


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A group of Tsishminian Natives in a graveyard in Metlakahtla, Alaska.


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A family of Tsimshian natives.


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The church built by the Tsmishian in Canada before they moved to Alaska.


Culminating Document

Group in native dress taken on occasion of Edward Marsden's wedding day at Metlakahtla

ca. 1902

This primary source comes from the Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection.
National Archives Identifier: 297646
Full Citation: Group in native dress taken on occasion of Edward Marsden's wedding day at Metlakahtla; ca. 1902; Photographs of the Inhabitants of Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska, ca. 1856 - 1936; Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/group-in-native-dress-taken-on-occasion-of-edward-marsdens-wedding-day-at-metlakahtla, September 16, 2019]


Group in native dress taken on occasion of Edward Marsden's wedding day at Metlakahtla

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Conclusion

Assimilation and the Native People of Metlakahtla, Alaska

Seeing the Big Picture

After examining and matching the photos, identify five examples for evidence of cultural assimilation of the Tsimshian people. Do you think the changes were positive or negative? Why? Explain.

The last photo is of a group of Tsimshian people at a wedding. Some of them are in their Native dress and some were not. It was forbidden at the time to wear Native dress. Why do you think those in Native clothing would take such a risk? Why do you think their Native customs were still valuable to them, even after so many years?

Your Response




Document

Baseball team, Metlakahtla, Alaska

This primary source comes from the Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection.
National Archives Identifier: 297987
Full Citation: Baseball team, Metlakahtla, Alaska; Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/baseball-team-metlakahtla-alaska, September 16, 2019]


Baseball team, Metlakahtla, Alaska

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Document

Photograph of the Marriage of Paul Mather and Emma Benson in Metlakahtla, Alaska

ca. 1900

The wedding of Paul Mather and Emma Benson was celebrated at Metlakahtla Christian Mission Church in Metlakahtla, Alaska. Mather became an Episcopalian minister, a packer over the Chilkoot Pass trail, and a guide for the military in WWI.
This primary source comes from the Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection.
National Archives Identifier: 297666
Full Citation: Photograph of the Marriage of Paul Mather and Emma Benson in Metlakahtla, Alaska; ca. 1900; Photographs of the Inhabitants of Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska, ca. 1856 - 1936; Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/photograph-of-the-marriage-of-paul-mather-and-emma-benson-in-metlakahtla-alaska, September 16, 2019]


Photograph of the Marriage of Paul Mather and Emma Benson in Metlakahtla, Alaska

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Document

Metla-Kathla Church, British Columbia. Built entirely by the Tsimshean Indians.

This primary source comes from the Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection.
National Archives Identifier: 297832
Full Citation: Metla-Kathla Church, British Columbia. Built entirely by the Tsimshean Indians. ; Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/metlakathla-church-british-columbia-built-entirely-by-the-tsimshean-indians, September 16, 2019]


Metla-Kathla Church, British Columbia. Built entirely by the Tsimshean Indians.

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Document

Group in cemetary at grave of "Alex born July 8, 1902, died July 20, 1904

ca. 1904

This primary source comes from the Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection.
National Archives Identifier: 297680
Full Citation: Group in cemetary at grave of "Alex born July 8, 1902, died July 20, 1904; ca. 1904; Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/group-in-cemetary-at-grave-of-alex-born-july-8-1902-died-july-20-1904, September 16, 2019]


Group in cemetary at grave of "Alex born July 8, 1902, died July 20, 1904

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Document

Photograph of an Indian family

ca. 1910

Sir Henry Wellcome photographed this Tsimishian family at home in Metlakahtla, Alaska, around 1910. A small group of Tsimishian Indians, following Anglican missionary William Duncan, left Metlakahtla, British Columbia, settled on Annette Island, the only Indian Reservation in Alaska, and established Metlakahtla, Alaska.
This primary source comes from the Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection.
National Archives Identifier: 297620
Full Citation: Photograph of an Indian family; ca. 1910; Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/photograph-of-an-indian-family, September 16, 2019]


Photograph of an Indian family

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Document

"Native Young Folks" picnic in the early days of the settlement of Metlakahtla, Alaska

This primary source comes from the Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection.
National Archives Identifier: 297981
Full Citation: "Native Young Folks" picnic in the early days of the settlement of Metlakahtla, Alaska; Collection WME: Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/native-young-folks-picnic-in-the-early-days-of-the-settlement-of-metlakahtla-alaska, September 16, 2019]


"Native Young Folks" picnic in the early days of the settlement of Metlakahtla, Alaska

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