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Wallace M. Olson Collection


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Various documents concerning: 18th Century exploration of the Northwest Coast by European countries and America, and photographs and documents of the 1975 Taku Harbor area archaeological dig.

Various copies of documents concerning: Fort Durham/Fort Taku/Fort Tako, Fort Durham journal entries of Sir James Douglas regarding Fort Tako, Tsetsaut Zaow (Portland Canal) peoples, Warm Chuck Village site, Sitka and Glacier Bay stories, 1867 expedition the United States, and video project of Southeast Native Alaskans.

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Wallace M. Olson Collection, 1750-1990 | Sealaska Heritage Institute Archives

By Mary M. Brooks, UAS Student Intern

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Collection Overview

Title: Wallace M. Olson Collection, 1750-1990Add to your cart.

ID: MS/033

Primary Creator: Olson, Wallace M.

Extent: 2.0 Boxes

Date Acquired: 06/17/2011

Subjects: Tlingit Indians--History.

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

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.

Biographical Note

Wallace M. Olson is an anthropologist that has primarily focused on the Tlingit Indians of Southeast Alaska. He is an author on numerous books and articles on the Tlingit, and an emeritus instructor of anthropology at University of Alaska Southeast, Juneau. As of 2011 he lived in Juneau, Alaska.

Subject/Index Terms

Tlingit Indians--History.

Administrative Information

Repository: Sealaska Heritage Institute Archives

Access Restrictions: Some materials in this collection, such as the archeological surveys, are restricted to the public for the protection of 14(h)1 sites, but access can be granted to researchers with a valid research request. Consult the archivist for further details.

Acquisition Source: Wallace M. Olson

Acquisition Method: The material in the collection was donated by Dr. Wallace M. Olson, Professor Emeritus, University of Alaska Southeast to SHI on June 17, 2011.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Box:

[Box 1: Various documents concerning: 18th Century exploration of the Northwest Coast by European countries and America, and photographs and documents of the 1975 Taku Harbor area archaeological dig.],
[Box 2: Various copies of documents concerning: Fort Durham/Fort Taku/Fort Tako, Fort Durham journal entries of Sir James Douglas regarding Fort Tako, Tsetsaut Zaow (Portland Canal) peoples, Warm Chuck Village site, Sitka and Glacier Bay stories, 1867 expedition the United States, and video project of Southeast Native Alaskans.],

Box 1: Various documents concerning: 18th Century exploration of the Northwest Coast by European countries and America, and photographs and documents of the 1975 Taku Harbor area archaeological dig.Add to your cart.

Fd 1:    One carbon copy and three photocopies of various accounts of Captain James Colnett aboard the ship Prince of Wales, a sailing vessel traveling northward from Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia to Cook Inlet in Alaska and back again for purposes of trade with the Native Alaskan and First        Nation peoples. The timeframe for these documented travels is circa 1755 to 1806. The carbon copy is on onion skin and is of a manuscript transcription from microfilm.  The remaining three (3) copies are photocopies of same or similar documents.

Fd 2:    Printed copy of Voyage of the Sonora in the Second Bucareli Expedition (San Francisco: Thomas C. Russell, 1920) a journal kept in 1775 on the Sonora by Don Francisco Antonio Mourelle . . . translated by The Hon. Daines Barrington from            the original Spanish manuscript”.  The formatting of this document is in the unbound signature style with the exception of the introduction and index which are photocopies.  The journal relates the travels of ship and crew along the Northwest coast of America from California to the Gulf of Alaska and back.

Fd 3:    Photocopies of journal pages from the book, Voyages of the “Columbia” to the Northwest Coast 1978-1790 and 1790-1793 (Massachusetts Historical Society,      1941).  There two stapled groupings of photocopies of pages from the book: Group one begins with the cover and end at page 229.  Stamped on the left side of the cover page is: “COMPLIMENTS OF THE ALASKA STATE LIBRARY & ARCHIVES”; Group two includes pages 215 through 347 ending with copy of cover page.  The copied material concerns the sailing of the ship Columbia along the Northwest coast of America in 1791-1793.  The narrator relates the trading and relational interactions of the ship’s crew with the indigenous peoples encountered.  The journals also inform the reader as to location through given    latitudes.

Fd 4:    Transcription (44 pages) of Captain James Colnett’s journal entitled, Remarks from Voyage to the N W Side of America” originally published in 1798.  The transcription was completed by Dr. Olson and subsequently sent to Frederica de      Laguna along with a cover letter.  The timeframe of this material is from March 19 to June 21, 1788.

Fd 5:    Photocopies from the document entitled, The Journal and Letters of Captain Charles Bishop on the North-West Coast of America, in the Pacific and in New South Wales 1794-1799 (Cambridge, University Press, 1967).  There are 12 stapled photocopies with one half-sized library reference page.  The journal and letters relate to the ship’s crew perspective regarding trade relations with the        indigenous peoples of the Alexander Archipelago and Queen Charlotte Islands.

Fd 6:    Photocopies from book entitled, The Journal of William Sturgis by S. W. Jackman, (Sono Nis Press, 1978).  There are two groupings of pages: 1) stapled and consists of introductory pages 13 through 29, and 2) loose leaf pages from cover to page 136.  Also present is a page of typewritten notes by Wallace Olson.  The subject of the journal pages concern William Sturgis’s experiences aboard the ships Eliza and the Ulysses during travels up the Northwest coast of America from the Queen Charlotte Islands to Sitka, Alaska.  The timeframe is circa 1798-1799.

Fd 7:    Photocopies of various documents regarding the ship Jefferson’s travels through the northwestern coastal area of Queen Charlotte Islands and the AlexanderArchipelago from 1791-1795.  There are three (3) groupings of papers: 1) two pages, loose leaf, from the Boston Library’s Catalog of Manuscripts of the            Massachusetts Historical Society along with response letter from library to Dr. Olson; 2) article, entitled, “A Yankee Trader on the Northwest Coast, 1791-1795”    by F. W. Howay found in the publication, The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXI. No.2, dated April 1930; and 3) 36 loose leaf pages (two administrative pages and 34 pages of copied handwritten pages) sent from the Massachusetts Historical Society regarding logs from the ship the Jefferson written by Bernard McGee from the dates July 21 – August 27, 1793 and May 1-31, 1794.  The documents detail trade relations with the indigenous peoples and the cultural problems encountered in the Queen Charlotte Islands and south Dall Island in the Alexander Archipelago.  Of note to researchers: Page 91 paragraph 3 of the    article mentions potlatches in the last sentence: “. . . it is believed that this is          the earliest description.”

Fd 8:    Photocopies of an excerpt from the book, The Sea, the Ship and the Sailor, Tales  of Adventure from Log Books and Original Narratives (Marine Research Society,        1925), as told by John Bartlett, a sailor aboard the ship Gustavuus heading from China to the Northwest Coast of America in circa 1791.  There are two groupings of copies of the same story with the largest consisting of thirty pages, loose leaf and the second, an attenuated copy, consisting of five stapled pages.  Although the actual account of importance begins on page 295, the sailor’s manifest is found on page 293.  These are the names of those who were on the ship at time of anchoring in Bartlett Sound at 48 degrees 56 minutes North.  The Gustavuus sailed to the Queen Charlotte Islands northward to about 63 degrees North then            began the return trip south.  The narrative details trade relations with the indigenous peoples as well as the cultural problems that ensued.

Fd 9:    Photocopies of excerpts from the French language book, Mémoires du Capitaine Péron, sur ses Voyages aux Côtes d’Afrique, en Arabie, a l’Île d’Amsterdam, aux  Îles d’Anjouan et de Mayotte, aux Côtes Nord-Oeust de l’Amérique, aux Îles    Sandwich, a la Chine, etc. (Paris: Brissot-Thivars, Libraire, 1824).  The excerpts are loose leaf, 32 pages total and are comprised of the complete chapters two and three, page one of chapter four, five pages from chapter seventeen and three maps of the Queen Charlotte Islands and the Cordova Bay area of the lower Alexander Archipelago.  Accounts of Captain Francoise Perón’s exploration of the northwest coast of America occurred in the 1790s and include contacts with the indigenous peoples.

Fd 10:  Photocopied excerpts, 2 sets, white paper with black print, stapled, from a book by author Richard J. Cleveland entitled, In The Forecastle; or, Twenty-Five Years A Sailor (New York: World Publishing House, 1876).  The excerpts consist of twelve pages (one title page and eleven from Chapter VII) from the book.  Attached to one set is a photocopy of a page from the book by J. P. [struck            through and renamed, Richard Jeffry] Cleveland [of Salem, Mass.] entitled, Voyages, Maritime Adventures, and Commercial Enterprises, In All Part of the World: Comprising A Period of Twenty-Four Years, In Every Kind of Craft,            From the Boat of Twenty-Five Tons, to the Indiaman of One Thousand Tons, And on the Most Laborious and Hazardous Enterprises (London, 1842).  The excerpts chronicle the travels, circa 1799, of an unnamed ship through the Queen Charlotte Islands and southeast Alaska in order to conduct trade with the indigenous peoples.

Fd 11:  Photographs, in plastic sheets, 73 in number, black and white, 3.5” x 5” with negatives.  The photographs were taken at the Taku Harbor Fort Durham site (a one-time Hudson[‘s] Bay Company trading post in the 1800s) during an archaeological survey lead by Dr. Olson in 1974 and an archaeological workshop also led by Dr. Olson in 1977.  Documents pertaining to the archaeological survey can be found in Folder 12.

Fd 12:  Photocopies of documents on white paper with black print pertaining to the Fort Durham archaeological site report titled, “Survey of the Fort Durham Site July 12-16, 1975”, authored by Dr. Olson, Susan Millard, Nancy Pagenkopf, and Ray    Pagenkopf.  The report is bound with GBC black binding.  The remaining documents were used as resources for the site report and include archaeological site reports from 1975 (2 copies) and 1977 (2 copies), assorted survey maps and various historical accounts of the Hudson[‘s] Bay Company involvement regarding Canadian and southeast Alaskan trade activities.  Please note: Photographs taken of the Fort Durham site during the archaeological surveys of 1975 and 1977 are located in Folder 11.

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