The History of Education in Alaska


Father Ioann Veniaminov transfered to Sitka later, in 1839, he learned of his wife's death

1839 - 1879

Ivan Popov was born in the Siberian district of Irkutsk. There were too many Popov's and Ivan was given the honor of receiving the name Veniaminov. He became an ordained minister and went to Alaska. There he studied the Aleut langaguage , built a church in Unalaska, and opened a bilingual (Russian and Aleut) school. From 1834-1838 he was assigned to Sitka. During one of his many travel, he learned of his wife's death. After her death, he agreed to become a monk, and was elevated to Bishop of Kamchatk, the Kuriles, and Aleutian Islands.
He continued to teach, build, and travel, designing St. Micheal's Cathedral in Sitka, which was consecrated in 1848. He was elevated to Archbishop and took the name of Innocent, and transferred to Yakutsk in 1850, where he translated scripture into the Yakut language. In 1868, the year following sale of Alaska to the United States. Archbishop Innocent was appointed Metropolitan of Moscow, the highest position in the Russian Orthodox Church, where he served until his death in 1879.

Pribilof Island gets U.S. Government 20 year exclusive seal hunting rights.

1870 - 1890

The 20 Year Pribilof Islands exclusive seal hunting rights lease included provisions that the company maintain schools on St Paul and St. George. More than 50 students were served in two schools. The Alaska Commercial Company hired Agapious Honchreko to write a primer, a 48 page book, teaching American Values in the English language. By 1890 the Northern Commercial Company had complied, as well.

A School in Wrangell

1877 - 1899

An army private was upset that there was no school for the Tlingit people near Sitka. He sent his commander a letter. The commanding officer sent the letter to Sheldon Jackson, who supervised the Home Missions of the Territories in Denver, Colorado. Sheldon Jackson sent Amanda McFarland, a Presbyterian missionary, arrived at Wrangell in 1877 to open a mission and school. The next year it became a girls school, and records show that it was open until 1889.

Native Children Required to Attend School in Sitka


Commander Henry Glass, the Senior Navy Officer required the native children to attend school. When he found attendance declining, he completed a census, numbered houses, gave each child a tag, and started contacting parents/families of students who were absent. If they chose not to come to school for no acceptable reason, the family was fined or faced other consequences. Attendance improved.

Organic Act of 1884

1884 - 1892

The Secretary of the Interior was directed to provide education for Children in Alaska without regard to race. Sheldon Jackson was selected as General Agent to oversee opening and operation of schools around the district. He served until 1908. Originally, 25,000 dollars per year was appropriated, and increased to 40,000 dollars. This vast land proved difficult to fund. Jackson asked churches to support the cause, and named several to each open missions or schools in separate areas. A number of schools opened. Teachers received about 800 dollars a year, which was less than in other western states. There were 17 government supported schools. Non-native schools were opened in Sitka, Juneau, and Douglas. The remainder were operated by churches. Jackson was criticized for supporting church schools, and the operation ceased.

Mining, Gold and Boom Times

1890 - 1905

Gold rush boom towns often has schools in the winter. Circle City had a school in 1898. Most of the boom town schools closed. Congress revised the Organic Act of 1884 and passed legislation in 1900 providing for the incorporation of towns in Alaska. In 1905, congress passed the Nelson Act. It provided for the education fo the white children and children of "mixed blood" who lead a civilized life in parts of the territory outside incorporated areas. The Federal Bureau of Education was in charge. Several school systems were funding schools and in operation.

Vocational Schools become more numerous

Approx. 1910 - Approx. 1920

In 1926 other vocational boarding schools started to open. one at White Mountain on the Seward Peninsula. It operated for about ten years until the start of WWII. The school operator for a few years after the war.

Bureau of Indian Affairs operate rural schools

1931 - 1984

Bureau Education turned over the operation of rural Alaska schools to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Alaska's educational program was combined with that of the American Indian. In 1984 the responsibility was turned over to the state of Alaska.