With the school year underway, now is a good time to focus on school newspapers- with emphasis on one title in particular, the Eskimo Bulletin from Cape Prince of Wales.
Of course, as this blog has chronicled, missionary schools forcefully separated Alaska Native children from their families and discouraged their traditions through violent means. It is important to present an accurate picture of our collections, and the Eskimo Bulletin represents a relic of the efforts to “Anglicize” its indigenous students. However, the title is a key part of Alaska newspaper history, and of the legacy that the missionary school system inflicted on Alaska Native children. Newspaper collections serve as a reminder of our history- for better or for worse.
William Thomas Lopp, a missionary and educator, first started the Eskimo Bulletin as an annual newspaper with the masthead motto: “The Only Yearly in the World” and billed the paper as “the most northerly newspaper in the world”. A newspaper, Lopp reasoned, could help children to learn English through writing, engraving, printing, and typesetting. The paper published its first issue in May of 1893 and lasted until 1902.
The Alaska Historical Society writes:
“On the inside pages, Lopp provided local news from the Eskimo settlements of western Alaska. These items must have seemed pretty exotic to their Lower 48 readers. Lopp reported, for example, that because of the scarcity of seals in the spring, the price of boot soles advanced from 2 to 7 bits of lead. He also wrote of the success of whale, walrus, and even squirrel hunts; trade with Siberian peoples; and the travels, marriages, and illnesses of local residents. Ad-loo-at, a local Native carver, produced woodcut illustrations, while he and other Natives did typesetting.
“The press broke after Lopp had printed the first page of the 1898 issue. He mimeographed the other pages of that issue. He and mechanically-minded Eskimos eventually repaired the press. Lopp left the press behind when he departed the Wales mission in 1902. A teacher at Wales in 1905-06 later used the press to produce a 2-page monthly called the Midnight Sun.”
With the upcoming grant cycle, we intend to add the Eskimo Bulletin to Chronicling America to mark the role that missionary schools played in the history of the state as recorded through newspapers.
Special thanks to Alaska Newspapers on Microfilm 1866-1998 and the Alaska Historical Society.
For further reading on the Lopp family, please consult the following works:
Kathleen Lopp Smith, “Tom and Ellen Lopp and the Natives of Wales, 1890-1902” in Alaska History, volume 10, #2, Fall 1995.
Kathleen Lopp Smith and Verbeck Smith, ed. and annotated, Ice Window: Letters from a Bering Strait Village: 1892-1902 (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Predd, 2001).