Chief Yaxodaget (~1830-1903) in 1888 at Yakutat. Chief of the Kwáashk’iwáan Raven Clan in Yakutat. Photographed by George T. Emmon. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Museum of Natural History

I recently came across this article from Fairbanks’ newspaper, The Alaska Citizen, posted November 2, 1914. Since March is Women’s History Month, I figured I’d have this article reprinted, for I found it extremely brave for a young, Indigenous woman during this time period.  

A brief explanation of our family relation: Back in the 1800s, there were five sisters from the Kwáashk’iwáan Nu Hit (Fort House) Raven clan that were given the last name of “Noble,” because they were the daughters of the Chief of Yakutat. Their father, Chief George Qakoqetc “Naa-Kaa-Nee” assumed the name, title, and roll of Yaxodaget upon the passing of his uncle, Chief George Yaxodaget. Two of these five Noble sisters were named Xaysi yax (English name Gertrude), and Staan Tlwa (English name Sally).  

Gertrude is my direct ancestor with tracing lineal blood to my Papa Bill Webber. She is a great grandparent to many Raven’s in town, including Sylvia Lange, Tom Andersen, and Ira Grindle.  

Staan Tlwa “Sally” Noble married Canadian prospector William Boswell in Katalla and had four daughters. Their first daughter was born in 1891 in Katalla, while the last three were born in Eyak. The third born was KoosDoouh “Christine” Boswell. Upon the passing of his wife around the time of their fourth daughter’s birth ~1900, Bill sent his eldest two to a Kodiak orphanage, and the younger two were separated and taken in by family or friends. By 1910, the three eldest daughters attended a Native boarding school in Chemana, Oregon. It was at this school where Christine Boswell, merely 18 years old, is quoted in the following article, advocating on behalf of the Indigenous populations of Katalla, Eyak, and Cordova.  

I find her words courageous. She is clearly trying to work within their modern systems to better her people’s living standards. She is careful with her wording, as to not provoke simple egos. My favorite line is, “It has been said that ‘If you would know the political and moral conditions of the people, ask as to the conditions of its women.’ This test holds as good in the Indian race as in the white. However, it is not the girls who need especial attention at present so much as the race as a whole.” I will let you read her words and take from her bravery what you will. 

Republishing of “Alaska Indian girl proves good student, tells of the condition of her people”: 


Some of the Alaska Natives who are being educated at the Indian school at Chemawa, Oregon, not far from the capital city of that state, are proving to be unusually bright in their studies. The school, it is understood, is open to all children that have Indian blood, and the training they get there is of a practical nature.  

One of the bright Alaska students at the school is Miss Christine Boswell, whose father is a white man at Cordova, named William Boswell. The following paper on Alaska Indian girls was read by Miss Boswell at the State Girls’ Conference at Albany, Oregon, recently: 

“My topic, ‘Some Other Girls,’ doubtless brings before your mind’s eye a great variety of pictures. You see fur-clad Eskimo girls; quaint Japanese girls, and their nearby relatives, the Chinese girls; dusky skinned girls of India; brown girls of Australia and adjacent island, and still darker skin-peasant girls of Europe, the Spanish maiden in her picturesque costume, and you see your own smartly clad, bright, progressive girls. But the picture that I wish to present to you is of my own race. I would still further restrict you to one little corner of Alaska where is my home. 

Conditions worse 

“Before the Copper River railroad was built, the Indians and a few white people dwelt peaceable together on equal footing, sharing impartially the fishing, the hunting, and the trading. Then came the railroad and the town of Cordova was built where the white people have stores and a hotel and own and control all the industries. The right-of-way of the railroad passed directly through the little Indian village, so the company built houses for the natives at another site about two and a half miles from Cordova. Their old homes had been substantial structures. Their new houses are mere shacks and small ones at that, carelessly constructed of cheap material by contract labor. The winds blow through the cracks and in stormy weather the inhabitants suffer with cold.  

“Since the coming of the white man with innovations of civilization, the Indian men cannot make enough during the summer to support their families through the winter. Hunting is limited to a period of a few months, consequently the fare of Indians is more frugal than formerly the women and girls make baskets and beautiful moccasins for sale. Grass for baskets is scarce and hard to get. Moccasins are made of seal skins and sold to Cordova merchants at $1 a pair. The next day these same moccasins appear in the show case price marked from $2.50 to $5 a pair. For the last four years, during the fishing and canning season, Chinamen have been transported free of charge to Cordova. Enough Chinamen to do the work are brought and there is little left for the Indian men to do. After the work is over, the Chinamen are carried away by the same steamship company that brought them. 

Cordova described 

“Cordova has a good modern public school. The rooms are all spacious and convenient, but as yet no provision has been made for the regular attendance of the Indian children. The few who have attended public school have proved themselves bright and adaptable.  

“My father is a white man, but he is deeply concerned with the need of my mother’s people. Though we live at Cordova, my father often visits the Indian village in winter. Many times he has sent groceries to the village when, upon a visit, he found the Indians [illegible word].  

“But I would not convey to you the idea that the Indians complain, or that their lives are altogether void of cheer. Some of them attend the Episcopal church and each Christmas their children are remembered the same as white children. They accept their fate with cheerful stoicism. They are intelligent and even happy, but their ignorance of the laws of labor is their undoing. Their greatest need is to have a manual education so that they can compete with the white men and the Chinamen. 

“You wonder that I have said nothing of the girls of this little Tribe. I can say little of them as individuals, for conditions make them an unimportant part of the tribe. I cannot segregate them as a class from their fathers and mothers and brothers. They do not have the constant refining influence of church association.  

Indian outlook 

“The story of those of my people who live near my home has much in common with the story of the race wherever they live. It has been said that ‘If you would know the political and moral conditions of the people, ask as to the conditions of its women.’ This test holds as good in the Indian race as in the white. However, it is not the girls who need especial attention at present so much as the race as a whole. 

“There is no doubt that the people of the Indian race will some day be influential in the affairs of the country. Then it behooves those of us who are interested in their political and moral welfare to manifest our interest in a practical way. The Young Women’s Christian association had done much in teaching our girls who have come within its scope. 

“The girls, in turn exert a beneficial influence upon those with whom they associate. Thus a little good sown, grows and grows. We, who understand the superior advantages of civilization, realize that the transformation which we so much desire for our people can be brought about only through the influence of Christianity.” 

This story was originally published in the March 29 issue of The Cordova Times.