These are excerpts I culled from the testimony given, as mentioned in the previous post. Influenza in Alaska 1919 Hearings

These excerpts had to be extracted from images (pictures) of the original pdf file of the scanned document by Google. Consequently, I and the OCR software may have misread the original. The hearing document is not long and well worth reading (the scanned images are legible to human eyes.)

Another interesting item, which I did not include, was the discussion about burial costs. Because of the frozen ground the cost of burials was high.

Another issue was the further disruption of communities and consequent morbidity and mortality from the flu because people had the tradition of abandoning the house (and body) in which someone died. Families would then have to seek shelter elsewhere.

How many ways are we better or worse prepared today than then?

Statement of Hon. Thomas Riggs, Jr., Governor of Alaska

Chairman. The committee was called primarily to consider resolution introduced by Senator Jones of Washington, appropriating $200,000 for the relief of the influenza sufferers in Alaska.

Gov. Riggs: …a brief history.

Following the line of steamship transportation from Seattle, influenza broke out at first along the coast towns, and it rapidly extended to all of the small towns, in southeastern Alaska– all of the native villages, and the isolated communities. At Nome, which is in the northern part of Alaska, just before the freeze up — when transportation ceased for the year– influenza broke out and. according to the last report I have, there have been approximately 1,000 deaths; 90 per cent of which were among the Eskimos. That has left on our hands over 150 Eskimo orphans. At the outlying places, like Kodiak, where it was extremely hard to get any assistance, there were 40 or 50 deaths. There have been deaths all over the Territory, 90 per cent of which were among the Eskimos. I estimate that there have been close to 2,000 deaths in the Territory, and the epidemic is still raging.

Gov. Riggs. I have a telegram here addressed to me under date of January 3 reading as follows:

Only bills received of office and far are from nearby towns, amounting to $5,000. Nome alone estimates 70,000 already obligated and expenses still climbing. Second epidemic about over on coast, excepting Cordova. Still raging along lower Yukon and Kuskokwim. Wire from Marshall today

Marshall is on the lower Yukon River-

says 30 per cent native adult men died that vicinity. Unless funds supplied, purchase provisions, and maintenance — orphans, women, and children will starve. Dr. Lamb died at Marshall.

He was the doctor I sent by dog team.

…Mrs. L. D. Henderson died last week.

She was the wife of the commissioner of education.

Senator Shafroth. And she died of influenza?

Gov. Riggs. She died of influenza; yes, sir.


…dated Nome. Alaska. January 2, 1919:

Ten villages this district affected. Three wiped out entirely; others average 85 per cent deaths. Majority of children of affected villages saved by relief parties sent by the Bureau of Education. Teachers in stricken villages all probably 25 per cent: this number frozen to death before help arrived. Over 300 children to be cared for, majority of whom are orphans. Am feeding and caring for surviving population of five large villages. Seven relief hospitals operated in affected villages; no trained nurses or physicians available.


Senator Smoot. Has the Territory paid anything toward this?

Gov. Riggs. Only the $5,000 fund.

Senator Smoot. That you had appropriated for that purpose?

Gov. Riggs. For that purpose; yes, sir.

Senator Smoot. Have the people in Alaska assisted in any way?

Gov. Riggs. The Red Cross chapters have spent all the money that they had on hand.

Senator Smoot. How much was that?

Gov. Riggs. In the last Red Cross drive they raised approximately $160,000. Twenty-five per cent of that, or about $40,000, remained in the Territory.


Gov. Briggs. There is about $600,000 in the treasury of Alaska; yes, sir.

Senator Jones. But you said that was in 1917.

Gov. Riggs. December 31, 1917. Our reports are made for the calendar year.

Senator Jones. What about this last year, 1918?

Gov. Riggs. The amount is about the same, if I remember right. It has not changed very much from that.

Senator Jones. So you think there is six or seven hundred thousand dollars in the Territorial treasury?

Gov. Riggs. Between half a million and six hundred thousand dollars; yes, sir. But there is this point: The United States Government does nothing for the Indians of Alaska. They are the only Indians in the United States who are not supported, if necessity arises, by the Government of the United States. Ninety per cent of this relief is for the Indians. The Bureau of Education has schools with a small appropriation, an insufficient appropriation.


Gov. Riggs. The people of Alaska consider that the money raised by taxes from the white people of Alaska should be spent for the improvements of the Territory. They need the money in roads a great deal. They want to spend more on roads; they want to spend more on the white schools; they want to spend more on their own sanitation.

There are various things, such as police protection, policing of the territory; that is one of the things that are coming up; and, as I have tried to express myself, they want to have the Indians in Alaska placed more on a parity with the Indians of other parts of the United States, where they are taken care of and looked after by the United States Government.

Our Indians are not given anything for their support. They get not 1 cent for support. They are self-supporting Indians. They have never been reservations Indians. They have been roving Indians, and fishing and trapping Indians, and have maintained themselves; and I would not be asking for any money for these Indians except for this epidemic that has swept the whole Territory and is causing all of this distress and devastation.


Senator Jones. You can not determine definitely the amount you will need ?

Gov. Riggs. No; Senator. The epidemic has now spread to the Kuskokwim, with its population of, perhaps, 1,000 Indians there. You see the Territory is so vast, and one can not get around it, therefore, we can not get all the reports in. There is nearly 600,000 miles of territory there. It is two and a quarter times the size of the State of Texas.

Senator Kenyon. You have not any doctors there, have you?

Gov. Riggs. We have very few doctors. We have an Indian doctor at a place called Nulaka, on the Yukon River, and then for 500 miles either way we have not a doctor.

Senator Kenyon. Just what do you do with the money? You have no doctors; you have no nurses.

Gov. Riggs. I have been sending itinerant doctors to attend the victims: the Bureau of Education has sent out relief parties that have been instructed in the handling of influenza and of pneumonia, and gathering up the orphans, and relieving destitution where it


Statement of Philander P. Claxton, Commissioner of Education.

Dr. Claxton. I suppose the information the governor has, given you, Mr. Chairman, is probably later also than ours. What I have is from our superintendent in the several districts.

The influenza epidemic in Alaska has been very severe. We have lost certainly more than 1,200 people up to the end of December. It is probably a good many more than that, because the Territory is so very large; the districts are so large, and our superintendents necessarily do not get full information very quickly; that is, they can not keep it up to date. But on December 28 in the five districts they had 1,126 deaths reported, and that leaves several hundred orphan children to be cared for. Our medical relief fund for the entire district of Alaska Territory is only $75,000, and that was practically all budgeted for our five or six hospitals and for our eight physicians and eleven nurses at those hospitals and elsewhere so that we were totally unprepared to meet the. conditions arising out of this epidemic. I am confident that all of the $200,000 asked for in the joint resolution before you will be needed for the relief of destitution if it is anything like so great among the white people as it is among the natives.

Senator Smoot. Well, it is not. The governor says most of it is among the natives.

Dr. Claxton. Probably it is mostly among the natives. It seems to have been more severe among them. For instance, in Nome there were about 300 natives. One hundred and seventy-six of those had died at our last report from Nome-more than half of them-and in the Nome district 730 had been reported to us by the 28th of December. It seems to have been more severe among the adult men and women than among the children. For that reason, large numbers of orphan children are left, and they must be cared for in some way. It is suggested by our superintendent there that they be put under the church missions up there, and the expenses paid, and that as soon as possible we. erect some kind of institution into which they can be put and cared for and educated at the same time.


Senator Weeks. Dr. Claxton, how did you originally come to take control of an activity of this kind?

Dr. Claxton. I was not Commissioner of Education at that time but when we bought Alaska we bought with it the natives, of course. They came to us, and the responsibility for them. For a good many years practically nothing was done by the Federal Government either for their education or for their support. About 1890 the Bureau of Education began to cooperate with Dr. Sheldon Jackson, of the Presbyterian Mission Board, in the care of the natives, and bringing over reindeer, and training the natives to herd reindeer, and so on; and soon after that the whole responsibility was taken over by the Bureau of Education. Just what year it was, I do not remember.

Senator Weeks. Does the Commissioner of Indian Affairs have anything to do with it ?

Dr. Claxton. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs has nothing to do with it. The Bureau of Education is the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the 27,000 Indians in Alaska.

Senator Curtis. The only thing the Bureau of Indian Affairs does is to bring part of them out of that country into the States for educational purposes.

Senator Weeks. Why does not the Commissioner of Indian Affairs have control of the Indians of Alaska?

Dr. Claxton. I do not know. It was left to the Bureau of Education. The great problem there has been the education of the natives. The burden of their support has not been large. We have ordinarily given about $2,000 a year for the relief of indigents.

Senator Curtis. They are largely self-supporting?

Dr. Claxton. Largely self-supporting. Our policy up there has been to give them industrial education, and make them self-supporting as rapidly as possible. Little was done for their medical relief until quite recently, when Congress has given us first $25,000, and then it was increased finally to $75,000, for these hospitals. With the cooperation of the Public Health Service, we have had a careful study made of the health conditions there.

Senator Smith of Arizona. May I ask, in that connection, about this matter of the education of the Indians? I have been looking into it pretty closely for over 30 years. Is the education of the Alaska Indian confined, as it has largely been in our Western States, to learning to read and write, sing psalms, and play on a harp; or has it been in an industrial line, to teach the Indian to work and become self-supporting?

Dr. Claxton. It has been chiefly industrial, sir. We have gone on the theory in Alaska that the education of the children must be in the community where their parents live. We therefore have not established boarding schools to which the children have gone away from their parents: and the teacher becomes a director, as far as he or she can, of the industries of the community.

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