Native American History Month: Alaska Native Representation in Historic Newspapers

Please note: Photos in this post contain racist imagery and terms.

Eskimo banner

Image credit: Evening public ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 29 Sept. 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

“Alaska Native” can refer to members of several different tribes including Aleut, Athabascan, Alutiiq, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit and Yup’ik, among many others:


Image credit: University of Alaska Fairbanks

But too often in Historic Alaska newspapers, (primarily) white men and women represented Alaska Natives in ways that relied heavily on stereotypes to reduce populations of people to caricature.

The issue of Native American representation looms large, in part due to the most recent National Geographic photo essay on the prevalence of Native American imagery on a global scale, the ongoing exhibit “Americans” at the Museum of the American Indian that highlights the current and historic use of products that employ Native American imagery in everyday objects, and an essay from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Imagery on the harmful, reductive nature of Native American stereotypes.

As a reflection of the times in which the papers were printed, writers used racial slurs or derogatory names to describe nonwhite peoples. The sheer number of pages with the highlighted epithets points to the commonplace nature discrimination against Alaska Natives. By contrast, only 3 pages contain the tribal name Tlingit, all of which reference the same advertisement, 0 pages contain Yup’ik, although there are 1424 pages that contain “Eskimo”, a pejorative term for Yup’ik and Inupiaq Alaska Natives, and one considered offensive to many members of the Inuit tribe in Canada.

In particular, the Eskimo imagery used frequently in newspaper advertisements reduces Alaska Native peoples to crude stereotypes- ones that persist in ads to this day.

Advertisers used Eskimos to sell a number of additional products. These remained particularly prevalent in papers across the Lower 48 to evoke the chilly nature of an ice cream treat or a refreshing soda, and relied on the exoticism of both the distant location and its people.


It is important to note that products used Eskimos to capitalize on indigenous imagery, while simultaneously, missionaries, businesses, and governmental agencies sought to erode the Yup’ik and Inupiaq culture and way of life.

Eskimo 2

Image credit: Evening capital news. (Boise, Idaho), 26 Nov. 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Eskimo 1

Image credit: The day book. (Chicago, Ill.), 27 May 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Cape prince of wales

Image credit: Evening capital news. (Boise, Idaho), 28 Jan. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Although these negative stereotypes, words, and imagery with regards to Indigenous peoples exist within a historical context, it makes their abundance no less shocking and reprehensible to encounter.


Image credit: Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 17 Feb. 1952. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>


Image credit: Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 15 Sept. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Eskimos 1

Image credit: Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 14 Jan. 1940. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Some may find this parsing of terms used to describe Alaska Natives in newspapers an exercise in “PC culture” or a retroactive attempt to apply current identifiers to another, earlier time. But as stewards of history, it is the job of librarians and archivists to make these primary sources accessible to illustrate the inherent viewpoints of those who created primary sources: to call out biases that informed their worldview.

The notion of agency is key: instead of (largely) white men and women speaking on behalf of Alaska Natives, newspapers such as the Tundra Times and the New Native sought to restore Indigenous voices within the newspaper sphere. The Alaska Digital Newspaper Project is working to include these titles in the upcoming round of funding.

Tundra times masthead

Image credit: Alaska State Library Historical Collections

While there is a great deal more to be done on behalf of Alaska Native representation, the inclusion of more titles to this project is a step in the right direction.


Black Friday and Holiday Shopping: a Post-Thanksgiving Tradition

Typical Scenes as Shoppers Make Their Final Christmas Purchases. "At least one bundle is mandatory"; "Summoned by S.O.S."; "Now don't forget Santy"; Money is plentiful in the United States this year, and the stores are doing a big Christmas business. The millions in gold that have poured into this country for the purchase of war supplies have given a firm tone to all lines of trade, and all classes are preparing for a merry Christmas. Some idea of the extent of the shopping may be gained from the accompanying pictures, showing the great throng of shoppers in the centres where holiday gifts are on sale. The man or woman who does not lug a bundle or two around these days is the exception.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 23 Dec. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Greetings, all!

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, many folks are hitting the shopping malls across the country to get a head start on their holiday shopping. Leafing through historic Alaska newspapers, one can find plenty of news items involving holiday shopping, too. Although Black Friday as the “busiest shopping day of the year” and unofficial start of the holiday season did not come into being until about the 1980s, shoppers anticipated a month-long window of time to buy gifts.

Read on to see how newspapers in Cordova, Juneau, and Skagway dealt with the topic of holiday shopping- and making sure its readers were able to find everything in time!


Time to do Shopping. But three weeks remain until Christmas, and the offerings of Cordova's enterprising merchants through the columns of the Daily Times should be taken advantage of by doing your shopping early, while you have the choice of articles for gifts. Under the caption of "Why Not Now," the Saturday Evening Post points out the advantage of early shopping in the following excerpt from one of its editorials on that subject: "Christmas shopping several weeks before Christmas is a pleasant adventure; a week before it is a hard trial; a day before it is a calamity. Usually it is mere laziness that puts it off. "In ten years there has been a marked change in Christmas shopping habits in cities, brought about by constant appeals to the public. Yet hundreds of thousands of employees in city shops still look forward to Christmas week pretty much as the boys in the trenches look forward to the order to charge. Among salespeople, deliverymen and bookkeepers the holiday onslaught still leaves a cyclonic trail of wrecked nerves. Like every other bad habit, once it is broken the victim wonders why he suffered from it so long. Do your Christmas shopping now and you will never again wait until near Christmas."

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 09 Dec. 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Wednesday, December 15, 1920: Christmas Shopping: Cordova stores are well stocked with pretty things for the Christmas trade and from now on the salespeople will have their energies taxed to serve the public. Don't wait until the day before the holiday to do your Christmas shopping and force the stores to remain open nights. Remember that after clerks have stood upon their feet throughout the day they are entitled to rest, and there is no greater health destroyer than overtaxing strength. Try this Christmas to co-operate in making it as light upon those who serve us as possible. It is a better Christmas spirit than to organize a rush at the eleventh hour and its consequent baleful effects.

Image credit: Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 15 Dec. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Only 28 More Shopping Days to Christmas: Juneau Residents Should Be Getting Lists Ready, Start Shopping Early. Have you begun your Christmas shopping yet? No, well there are only 28 more shopping days, do you realize that? Have you even made up your shopping list yet, put down the items you are going to get for Billie, Maggie, or Tom, Dick and Harry, mother, father, sister, or brother? The time is rolling quickly towards the big day, rolling quicker than most people imagine and when one realizes that there are only 28 more shopping days it almost takes ones breath away. The local merchants are already receiving their last Christmas shipments and soon shelves and cases will be filled with articles for gifts. Show windows will soon be decorated and the Christmas trade will be on with a rush. Local merchants, as soon as they get all of their goods unpacked, expect a good holiday trade and hope shoppers will "shop early" to relieve the inevitable grand rush of the few days before Christmas.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 20 Nov. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Christmas Shopping: The thought of Christmas shopping is the thing that is under everybody's bonnet just now- or it ought to be. The stores are looking their best just now, the stocks of Christmas goods are yet comparatively complete and it is a delight to just look in upon the glint and shimmer of the show cases and the laden shelves and counters. All merchants alike declare the trade is well under way and bids fair to equal that of any holiday season in the history of Skagway.

Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 17 Dec. 1908. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Juneau Trade at Christmas Time is Good: Merchants Report Shopping Has Started Indicating People Are Prosperous. Christmas trading is starting in Juneau and all merchants report that the indications are that the holiday business will equal that of previous years and possibly exceed the business of the past two years. Merchants who do not engage at special holiday business also report excellent financial conditions in Juneau and that trading in general is splendid. W.S. Pullen, manager of the Alaska Electric Light & Power Co., stated today that the business of that house has been good during the fall and was fine at the present time with indications that the Christmas trade will be excellent. There are many new novelties in household goods of an electrical nature being displayed this year. A. J. Ficken, manager of the Frye-Bruhn Market, who recently returned from a business trip to Seattle, stated today that he was surprised at the business being done in Juneau on Thanksgiving day. "Our business has been good this year," said Mr. Ficken today, "and a trip around the Capital City will show the why for. Few men are on the streets in the day time showing that all who care to work are employed. The women folks have been busy with their Christmas sewing at home and have used the telephone for their orders. Now that the greater part of the home work is over, the women folks will start on their store shopping and the holiday season will be a busy one, I am sure. I was glad to get back to Juneau, after visiting several cities in the Pacific Northwest, for conditions here are so much better than outside, that the comparison is all in favor of Gastineau Channel." Simpson & Wright, of the Nugget Shop, report that the holiday business has started off briskly in the jewelry line. M. Michael and George E. Coury, of the Boston Store, are both well satisfied with the first spurt in the holiday trading. Christmas goods in the drug stores are moving rapidly and with shipments expected on the next steamers from the South, these will be unpacked and the goods will be displayed.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 04 Dec. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Those who have not already begun to do their Christmas shopping should not put off the task another day. Merchants are displaying their Christmas goods, and those who shop now will be able to get first chance at them, at a time when they will have the time to think clearly and without the confusion and compulsion for hasty decisions that always result when you have to catch a boat with your mail. Salesmen have time now to help make your decisions. They will not have that time if you wait for the rush. Commence your shopping now.

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 13 Dec. 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>


However you choose to spend your Black Friday, please do so safely!

Public Library Week: Newspapers on Microfilm at Your Local Library


Greetings, all!

This week marks Public Library Appreciation Week, and a great opportunity to shed light on opportunities to access newspapers through your local library.

The State Library of Alaska may be a government library, but we share in the mission of public libraries everywhere to make newspapers available to the public.

While many public libraries offer local and national newspapers to browse free of charge, some centralized public libraries hold microfilm copies of archived papers. Microfilm reels can even be accessed remotely: many libraries are able to ship reels of microfilm to a patron’s local library (provided it has a microfilm reader available).

Public libraries are, for many patrons, their first exposure to the greater library world, and an invaluable resource for much more than just books. Check out which newspaper titles are available through your local public library today!



New Title on Chronicling America: Seward gateway daily edition and the Alaska weekly post

Hello all,

This week, Chronicling America updated their list of Alaska newspaper titles and added one more: The Seward gateway daily edition and the Alaska weekly post

Seward Gateway 1

Throughout its publication, the Seward gateway changed title and frequency, offering both daily and weekly issues. For this paper, we had access to one issue of the Seward gateway daily edition and the Alaska weekly post, which is treated as its own newspaper title. Although only a single issue, this paper can shed light on what life was like January 24, 1918 in Seward- and the rest of the world.

Because today is Election Day, one article in this issue highlighted voter registration in Alaska, then still a territory. Alaska voters could cast their ballots for local politicians and territorial representatives, and for state-wide initiatives. Not until Alaska became a state in 1959 could its citizens participate in national elections.

Citizens Can Register for Next Election: Registration Books Are Now Open At Seward Drug Co.- Councilmen and Other Officers Will Be Elected First of April; Seward citizens can now register for the spring election to be held for city officials on the first Tuesday in April. The registration book is opened at the Seward Drug Co., where City Clerk Pochlman can be found. Registration will close on March 30th but the book is opened early in order to save the rush as the last days. To register for the city election one must have been in the territory for one year and in Seward for six months prior to the election date. At the next election three councilmen will be chosen mayor, treasurer, city clerk and city attorney. The retiring councilmen are Messrs. Sexton, Sauers and Dubreil. So far little has been started in the way of politics and no announcements have been made from prospective candidates.

Image credit: The Seward gateway daily edition, and the Alaska weekly post. (Seward, Alaska), 24 Jan. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Unlike current voting registration in Alaska, in which one need only demonstrate residency through a government-issued photo identification, Alaska residents had to have lived in the territory for one year, and in Seward itself for at least six months before the election.

If you are registered to vote today, November 6, please exercise your right to vote in the midterm election and make your voice heard!