This collection consists of the research files of anthropologist and author Wallace M. Olson, whose research focused primarily on the Tlingit Indians of Southeast Alaska. The bulk of the collection contains photocopies of historic documents and photographs that pertain to the history of Alaska from circa 1790 to 1990s, with a focus on Tlingit and Euro-American explorers and traders along the Northwest Coast circa 1790 to 1795. The collection also contains some of Olson’s archeological work on Tlingit sites, with some focus on the Taku Inlet area and the Warm Chuck Village site located on Heceta Island. Other important subjects covered by this collection include the history of the Hudson Bay Company’s trading post of Fort Durham located in Taku Harbor and the Tsetsaut tribe or Portland Canal peoples, which were conducted in the 1960s through the late 1990s.
Box 1 (Folders 1-10) contain copies of journals written by Euro-American captains and sailors of various sailing ships including the Jefferson, Prince of Wales, Sonora, Columbia, Eliza, Ulysses, and the Gustaavus. The ships traveled from Britain, France, Spain and America up the Northwest coast, docking at the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia before sailing further north into unknown territory.
Box 1 Folder 11 through Box 2 Folder 6 contains the second most documented subject in the collection: the location and history of Fort Durham or Fort Taku, originally named Fort Tako. This particular site is found in Taku Inlet and very little, if any, evidence still exists concerning its presence. Fort Durham was first constructed for purposes of protected trade by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1840, yet hastily vacated in 1842 due to a lack of available resources necessary in order to be self-sustaining. The journal entries (from 1840 through 1843) of influential HBC figures such as Sir George Simpson and Sir James Douglas inform the reader about the inner workings of how business was conducted within the Hudson’s Bay Company sites of Fort Simpson and Fort Tako. In 1975, Dr. Olson headed an archaeological dig to Taku Inlet to determine if the physical site of Fort Durham could be located. Dr. Olson relied on the HBC journals and United States geodetic surveys to locate the fort’s building site. In 1977, another archaeological team headed by Dr. Olson returned to the site to conduct a more discrete scientific study of the site. The photographs, survey findings and result reports are located in this collection along with a draft copy of Dr. Olson’s published book that chronicles the history of Fort Durham.
The remainder of the collection, Box 2 Folders 7-11, consists of various historical subjects including: the Tsetsaut (Zitz Zaow) Indians (the Portland Canal people); the Heceta Island site location of Warm Chuck Village along with the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) violation that occurred there in 1997; and, ethnographic interviews with Sitka Tlingit Chookaaneideí clan members regarding oral history stories of the Glacier Bay story conducted by National Parks historian, George A. Hall. Mr. Hall includes field notes, correspondence, differing versions of the oral history stories and a copy of the report submitted to Washington, D.C. from which a National Parks publication was created.