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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 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.Add to your cart.

Fd 1:    Photocopies of various geodetic documents, maps and photographs pertaining to scientific surveys done at the Fort Durham site in Taku Inlet.  The dates range from 1888 to 1975.

Fd 2:    Photocopies and printed documents on white paper pertaining to the history of the Taku Harbor Fort Durham trading post site.  The various documents include a partial rough draft of Dr. Olson’s book, A History of Fort Durham, A Hudson’s Bay Compnay [sic] Trading Post Located in Taku Harbor 1840-1843, Within the            boundaries of present day Juneau (Heritage Research: Juneau, Alaska, 1994).  Other documents include photocopies of a transcription of Sir James Douglas’s original journals as well as articles about and excerpts from books written about Sir James Douglas and George Simpson, two high-ranking persons in the Hudson[‘s] Bay Company’s western American regions during the during the time Fort Durham was built.

Fd 3:    Photocopy of oversized original hand-written document, twenty-five pages, loose leaf, white legal size paper with black print with hand-written notations in margins, pertaining to the journals of Sir James Douglas while at Fort Tako (Taku) in 1840.  The journal is correspondence to various individuals assigned to or associated with Fort Tako (Taku).  Correspondents include: A. Etholeny (Adolf Karlovich Etolin) (Arvid Adolph Etholén), Governor of the Russian American Colonies, August 1840; E.E. Roderick Finlayson; John McLaughlin; Captain Duncan; John Work; John Antonowitch Koopreanoff (Ivan Antonovich Kupreanof), Governor of the Russian American Colonies, July 1840; Captain Scarborough; and Wm. John Kennedy.

Fd 4:    Photocopies of various documents on white paper with black print pertaining to background history of Fort Durham, also known as Fort Taku.  The documents come from various authors and sources and include: Hubert Howe Bancroft; Roderick Finlayson; Thomas Lowe, crew member of the ship Beaver (1897, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1910); and Capt. John T. Walbran, Assistant Hydrographer (1906, 1907, 1908, 1909).  Of note is a piece of correspondence from the Hudson’s Bay Company to Mr. William P. Hruska, dated 24 February 1970, regarding the building of the post in 1840 and the reasoning behind the subsequent closure of Fort Taku/Fort Durham in 1842.

Fd 5:    Original and photocopied correspondence concerning the disagreement regarding the designation of the Fort Durham/Fort Taku as a registered historical site with          the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources.  The principal correspondents are: Dr. Wallace M. Olson, Professor Emeritus; Mr. William S. Hanable, Chief [of] History and Archaeology; and Mr. Robert N. DeArmond.

Fd 6:    Working copy with mark-ups of book by Dr. Olson entitled, A History of    Fort Durham, Hudson’s Bay Company Trading Post Located in Taku Harbor, 1840-1843, Within the boundaries of present day Juneau, Alaska (Heritage Research: Juneau, 1994).

Fd 7:    Photocopy of a printed manuscript by Joan Marie Mantei entitled, Tsetsaut (Zitz Zaow) Indians (1994, unpublished manuscript).  The author relates the history of this little known people, “An Athabascan tribe bordering on the salt water of Portland canal [the Portland Canal People], where two countries divide, Canada and the United States”.  Ms. Mantei states her Grandmother was the last of          the Tsetaut people.  There are two stapled groupings of pages: 1) personal narrative (four pages) of Tsetsaut history through knowledge passed down by older relatives; 2) literary draft of manuscript (nine pages) from introduction to first page of chapter two.

Fd 8:    Photocopies of various documents relating to historical sites, most specifically the Warm Chuck Village site, Heceta Island, in Southeast Alaska.  Included is a research report collated in a three-hole, blue report folder with white label on cover.  The printing on the label reads, “REPORT OF SURVEY AT WARM CHUCK VILLAGE SITE, 1989, Prepared by. [sic] W.M. Olson”.  The report was presented to Sealaska Corporation by Dr. Olson in 1989.  Of note to researchers: Also included in the folder is a photocopy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals summary of the case, United States V. Lynch, 233 F.3d 1139 (9th Cir. 2000), a precedent setting case, which vacated the conviction of Ian Martin Lynch for knowingly removing an archaeological resource from public land that violated the Federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).  Lynch had removed a human skull from the Warm Chuck Village site which was subsequently carbon dated to 1400 years old.  The appeals court concluded that Lynch acted without knowing his actions violated ARPA.  Also included are a case summary as it pertains to environmental law and an interview with Mr.      Lynch published in the Juneau Empire, January 21, 2002 edition.  Lastly, included            in the folder is a printed copy of an article written by Madonna Moss entitled, “Outer Coast Maritime Adaptation in Southern Southeast Alaska: Tlingit or Haida?” (Arctic Anthropology, Volume 45, Number 1, 2008).

Fd 9:    Copy of a manuscript submission with cover letter dated September 25, 2005, sent to Dr. Wallace Olson by Norman Lewis Smith Sr. M.A. for peer review.  The manuscript has a total of nine pages of white copy paper with black print and is stapled.  The cover letter is a single loose leaf page.  The manuscript is entitled, The God’s Island Benchmark (Norton Publishing: Albion, Nebraska, 2005).  The subject of the manuscript is the first authorized scientific expedition to Alaska undertaken by the United State government in 1867.

Fd 10:  Photocopies of various documents, white paper with black print, 63 pages bound together with binder clip, concerning a report done by George A. Hall, National Park historian, concerning Sitka, Alaska and the Glacier Bay stories of the Tlingit Huna Chookaaneideí clan of the Eagle moiety.  The copies include correspondence between Hall and clan members, National Parks interdepartmental memoranda, the completed Alaska Humanities Forum “Application Cover Sheet” and rough draft copy of Hall’s report for the National Parks’ publication.  Of note to researchers: These documents include a great deal of Tlingit history specific to the Sitka and Glacier Bay area.  Mrs. Lonnie Houston was the primary historical contributor with additional contributions from clan members: Lonnie, Houston, Alex Andrews, Willie Ross, George Dalton, Max Lindoff and Jim Martin.  The story subjects include: “Kakequte”, “The Story of the Kagwantan”, “The Slave Traders”, and “The Glacier Story”.  Mr. Hall’s field notes include information regarding the interviewees’ names, relationships and interactions that occurred between the clan members as well as interactions with Mr. Hall.  This information directly relates to the legal and cultural significance of clan at.óow, which includes the stories of Glacier Bay.  A copy of the National Park publication (upon which Hall’s research was based) entitled, “Mission 66 for Sitka and Glacier Bay National Monuments” is available at the Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, call number, F912.S52U6 1966 V.F..

Fd 11:  Photocopy of a faxed rough draft production script, seven pages, loose leaf, white paper with black print, pertaining to a video project sponsored by the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA).  The subject concerns the southeast Native Alaskans need to create a unified political faction in order to deal with the socio-economic discrimination being experienced in territorial Alaska.  The subjects include: Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, CCTHITA, Sealaska Corporation, Native Regional Corporation; Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA).

Fd 12:  Correspondence, 1976-2000. Correspondents include academic anthropologists and the leadership of the Sealaska Corporation.

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