Century of Servitude

Chapter 8. The Abandonment Policy, 1961-1970

The 1960s saw a sweeping reversal in Pribilof policy to abandon the islands and convert to a seasonal operation. This phase-out policy embodied the long-term goal of resettling the Pribilof Aleuts, except for a small number needed to run the seasonal operation, and the short-term goals of consolidating both villages at St. Paul and emancipating and training Aleuts for their new roles. What motivated management to institute such a dramatic policy switch? The economic imperatives of the past still shaped policy, but the economic conditions under which the program operated threatened portentous change. The Aleuts now represented a potential economic liability, and the seal industry no longer promised a significant source of surplus revenues.

Alaska statehood, achieved in 1958, was one of the developments related to these altered conditions. In statehood negotiation with the federal government, Alaska surrendered its future sovereignty over the Pribilof seals. In exchange, the federal government agreed to pay Alaska 70 percent of the net proceeds from the seal industry. Since the net proceeds before statehood were not impressive, averaging between one and two million dollars in the three preceding years, 1 the payment to Alaska threatened to reduce the net to an inconsequential amount. Furthermore, the government could no longer anticipate increasing revenues from significantly larger harvests. In the 1950s marine mammalogists warned that the seal herd exceeded the level for maximum productivity.2 Management responded with a population reduction program. The aim was to stabilize the population at a point of maximum yield, estimated between 60,000 and 90,000 animals. 3 While awaiting results of this effort, management set cautious harvesting quotas. Aside from small ups and downs, the quotas declined throughout the 1960s, from a peak of 95,974 in 1961 to only 38,805 by the end of the decade. And federal revenues decreased accordingly. 4 To render the economic outlook yet bleaker, management anticipated constantly rising labor costs, in part from expected wage raises, but mainly because of the expansion of the Pribilof Aleut population. The growth was due not to a migration gain (in fact there was a migration loss) but to natural causes. Between 1950 and 1960 the Pribilof population experienced a 5 percent net migration loss and a 28 percent net natural gain.5 For the first time, management envisaged a labor force larger than it required. Remember, the Pribilof program carried a legal mandate to support the entire population.

 The spectre of "overpopulation," as the labor surplus was called, haunted managers. In 1959, Olson, the general manager, argued for a policy of Aleut population reduction. To buttress the argument, he produced a  graph showing the relationship of the Pribilof Aleut population to the seal skin production. For nearly every year between 1906 and 1959, the rate of increase in seal production fell substantially below that for population growth.6 Rising labor costs in the face of revenue declines comprised the number one management headache in the 1960s. Olson proposed a solution‑‑resettle the Aleuts.

The question arises whether the FWS should continue expansion on a scale that will forever accommodate a prolific Aleut population regardless of a supporting economy. Or should the principle of sound economics be followed to limit facilities to a level commensurate with a sealing operation which has already reached its optimum production....

The big problem we face is to bring about a gradual migration of these Aleuts to places of better employment opportunity. The time has come when all male residents cannot be absorbed into the Pribilof operation.7

 Olson's recommendation received support in Washington. Two years later, top management formally embraced the abandonment policy.

The question of ultimate disposition of the Pribilof Islands was raised. It was agreed that the long‑range goal, to be reached many years in the future, should be the abandonment of the Pribilofsxcept for the period necessary each year to prepare for and conduct sealing operations, and for certain year‑round maintenance personnel....

Mr. Baker reviewed the future pay plan as it has thus far evolved. He stated that if the Islands as they now stand were abandoned for the portion of the year except that required to prepare for sealing, the actual sealing operation, and the securing of the plant ... from a preliminary review, it appeared that a saving of approximately 50 percent in labor costs would be realized. The size of this advantage would be reduced to an unknown but certainly significant extent as the necessity arises for recruiting and training seasonal crews.8

 But what about the legality of the resettlement plan? Section 8 of the 1944 Fur Seal Act required the government to provide for Aleuts' support. Would resettlement constitute a violation of the Act? The Washington Office requested a solicitor's opinion on this matter. The solicitor advised:

... the moral obligation to provide for the welfare of the native inhabitants of the islands, recognized by Section 8 . . . may be fulfilled by a relocation program administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and by State assistance to the indigent. When other provision is made for thesupport and m ntenance of the Island population, no financial obligation remains under Section 8. 9

An historical irony, no? For the past fifty years during which the Aleuts were an economic asset, the government insisted on its obligation to support them and, furthermore, defined them as ineligible for benefits provided other federal and nonfederal workers. Now that the Aleuts threatened to become an economic liability, how quickly federal definitions and the Aleuts' status changed. In any case, the solicitor's opinion signaled full speed ahead on the abandonment plan.

 This is not to suggest that management was callous about the resettlement plan. On the contrary, top management carefully designed plans to prepare Aleuts for resettlement‑to equip them with vocational, political, and attitudinal skills for independence. Aleut emancipation joined abandonment as the twin goals of the 1960s. Though management believed in the compatibility of these goals, they reflected a basic contradiction. The abandonment plan involved consolidation of the villages at St. Paul and resettling of the Aleuts away from the Aleutians, both of which the Aleuts opposed. (And this opposition could have been easily predicted had anyone bothered to assess the Aleuts' views.) Consequently, implementing the policy would entail coercion. And coercion fundamentally contradicts autonomy. The government could not, at one and the same time, promote independence and foist an unwanted program of action on the Aleuts. Management apparently failed to consider this contradiction because it was committed to its notions about the form Aleut independence should take. In managers' thinking, St. George Aleuts could be just as independent after transplantation to St. Paul as before, and, besides, they would gain access to additional services and amenities by making the move. What managers missed or failed to ponder was that imposing their notion of independence on the Aleuts denied the very essence of the concept.

Nevertheless, management reappraised and reformed its ideology and personnel policies to effectuate emancipation. By this time, the management institution had undergone another reorganization. In 1956 the Fish and Wildlife Service established two bureaus, Sports Fisheries and Wildlife, and Commercial Fisheries, each with its own director. The latter retained responsibility for the Pribilof program. Furthermore, the Fish and Wildlife Service abolished its fisheries office in Alaska when Alaska assumed responsibility for its own fisheries management in 1959. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired the head of the former Alaska office, Donald McKernan, a biologist, as director of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries.

 Immediately, McKernan tried to replace the conservative Olson, who perceived Aleuts as incapable and inferior, with Howard Baltzo. McKernan  had worked with Baltzo in the past. A twenty-year veteran of the federal fisheries service, Baltzo had struggled tirelessly against the salmon packers to protect the fishery and had earned a reputation as a principled, courageous, person. However, the substitution of Baltzo for Olson proved difficult to effect. As Olson resisted it, McKernan allowed him to remain titular general manager of the Pribilofs until his retirement a short time later. In the interim, McKernan created a new job title for Baltzo, program director, which carried de facto management responsibilities for the islands. 10

Baltzo's perception of his function derived from second-hand information.

I was told that the Department of Interior expected an explosion, that a Communist party group in New York City planned to 'blow the lid' off the Pribilof program; and consequently, the Department wanted to clean up the operation and eliminate injustices as quickly as possible.

 Baltzo clearly perceived his role as emancipator of the Aleuts: "Nothing existed in writing until the emancipation was well along, but my job was make the natives independent and bring them into the mainstream." 11 As the new policy direction had not yet filtered down to middle-level administrators, the Washington office granted Baltzo direct and ready access. Frequently Baltzo bypassed the Seattle regional office in making decisions.12 McKernan and Baltzo acted as a team in the emancipation drive, often against the opposition of the old-guard managers who remained in the Service. A new twist, yes? For the first time in the history of federal government administration of the Pribilofs, the management bureaucracy contained a pro-Aleut faction, or to be more precise, a partially committed pro­Aleut faction, for traces of colonialist mentality persisted.

A first step in the phase-out plan, and of immediate and pressing concern, was to contain rising program costs at this time of severely reduced revenues. The revenue trend was distinctly downward. From 1.5 million dollars in 1960, net revenues fell to only about $442,000 by 1968.13 Beginning in 1960, to halt the erosion of federal revenues from the seal industry, Congress established a special Pribilof Islands fund made up of the proceeds from the sale of Pribilof products and limited the Pribilof appropriation within the bounds of the fund. Yet, within a few years, program costs surpassed that mandated ceiling. Every year after 1969 the program produced a deficit. Aleuts' wages constituted one of the fastest‑rising program costs; for example, in St. Paul the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries wages increased by a staggering 137 percent between 1956 and 1966.14

The luxury of simply lowering the Aleuts' wages was no longer even a dim possibility. Top management faced unabated pressure to rectify economic inequities on the islands. Encouraged by the reforms of the 1950s, the Aleuts continued to demand equal treatment. This letter from an Aleut leader to the Secretary of the Interior is illustrative:

(Competitive) positions are of great advantage to the Aleuts up here but seems like the Department here on the Island don't seem to care to give such positions, An Aleut might happen to get such a position, but he won't be getting the same salary as the employee who is hired from the outside.15

 Indian rights groups continued their Pribilof reform efforts, and state­hood generated new forces for change. From the outset of his political career, Alaska's Senator Bartlett took an avid interest in injustices on the islands, as did the Alaska legislature which in its first session enjoined the federal government to bring the Aleuts’ wages up to par with the state minimum wage law requirement. 16

 Yes, meeting these demands conformed to the new policy direction, but how could management respond favorably without increasing labor costs? A reduction in force promised a way out of the dilemma. Management could control expenditures by limiting wage increases and other benefits to a portion of, rather than the entire labor force. Furthermore, a reduction in force promised to facilitate the resettlement goal by creating pressure for emigration, as Baltzo readily recognized: "This (reduction in force) would create the welfare problem but at the same time stimulate interest in relocation and so help to depopulate the village. This latter is . . . an objective of the overall program."17 A reduction in force now constituted a realistic option. The solicitor's opinion paved the way for negotiations to transfer responsibilities for Pribilof Aleuts to other agencies‑responsibilities for education, unemployment benefits, welfare assistance, and public health services. Although the Pribilof program compensated these other agencies, at least the groundwork was laid for ending financial responsibility for Aleuts.

 In 1962 management established a new Pribilof compensation plan with three main features‑‑a reduction in force, wage raises, and increased efficiency and skill diversification of the workers:

The Pribilof Islands Fur Seal Program shall be staffed with the primary objective of improving the quality, efficiency, and economy of operations.... The Bureau will not create positions solely for the purpose of providing employment opportunities to the inhabitants of the Pribilof Islands.

Employment shall accordingly be confined to the number of employees required to efficiently carry out essential operations as determined by responsible management officials. 18

 This seems straightforward enough, but unravelling the many strands of inequality often poses more problems than creating them in the first place. Should the sealing bonus be continued? Or with pressure from Bartlett and the Alaska legislature to give Aleuts equal civil service status, had the time now come to eliminate the bonus? The Chief, Branch of Alaska Fisheries, among others said, "no."

It is our opinion that the sealing bonus as a production incentive for individual na­tive crew members should be continued as an integral feature of Pribilof compensation. Incompatible as this may be with standard Government wage and salary procedures, it is a device widely used in industry and is traditional on the Pribilofs. Of more practical effect, we fear that elimination of this production incentive will result in such greatly lessened accomplishment as to completely outweight administrative benefits.19

Another high level official proposed retaining the sealing bonus as a rneans for funding community facilities: "It is proposed that bonus payments be continued. However, these would be paid into a community fund where they would be used to provide recreational, educational, or other community benefits as determined by the Town Council.,,20 How difficult it was for some of the old-guard managers to shed the detritus of colonialist ideology. In their thinking, it was quite acceptable to pay part of Aleuts' wages in a fixed-rate bonus that was not protected by standard wage and cost-of-living increases, and to earmark how the Aleuts were to use this part of their wage. An administrator in the regional office showed more flexibility in converting to new ways of thinking about Aleuts:

The old method . . . is outmoded because, under the new plan, there will be a number who are on welfare and so are not entitled to the bonus.

The new method fits in better with the idea of teaching the natives the ways of the general economic situation....

Therefore, the arguments of incentive and custom or tradition are outweighed, and the old sealing bonus as such should be done away with.21

 His opinion reflected the new thinking in Washington, and the sealing bonus was finally laid to rest. In the new plan, the government classified Aleuts by standard civil service criteria and paid them accordingly.

 Economic equality meant not only abandoning the sealing bonus but all special benefits, such as noncompetitive prices on food and fuel, free transportation on government vessels, and rent-free houses. Managers were in accord about the need to eliminate these other gratuities, but not about the applicability of certain benefits other federal workers received; for example, the 80 percent isolation rent deduction. Middle-level managers opposed the idea of applying the deduction to Pribilof Aleuts, arguing that it was not intended for persons living in their home communities. 22 McKernan disagreed with his staff: "It must be recognized that the basis for this deduction is the degree of isolation of the individual from a center of population and not how far a person is from his home area." 23 And so another stone was turned in equalizing conditions on the Pribilofs.

 Federal employees in Alaska also received a 25 percent cost‑of‑living al­lowance. McKernan failed to consider the application of this allowance to Pribilof Aleuts in his draft of the new compensation plan which he sent to the Secretary of the Interior for approval. The Secretary, however, called his attention to this oversight, 24 and forthwith, McKernan granted the cost-of-living allowance to classified employees.

 Management, including the Interior Secretary, remained noticeably silent about Aleuts' retirement benefits for the years worked before 1950, probably because correcting this inequity would entail considerable costs. Thus the new compensation plan ignored this issue. But Senator Bartlett plugged away at it, and four years later a new Fur Seal Act required the Pribilof program to cover Aleuts' retirement benefits for the pre-1950 year.25

 Think of that! With a single stroke of the pen, aside from pre‑1950 retirement benefits, the government in 1962 eliminated economic inequality in the Pribilofs. The forces for change within and outside the Fish and Wildlife Service overpowered the traditional-minded, reflecting not only the power of public opinion but also top management's determination to phase out the Pribilof program, which required emancipating the Aleuts.

 Economic equality, however, proved to be a mixed blessing, for it was accompanied by growing rates of poverty and unemployment. Before 1963 the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries employed virtually every able-bodied Pribilof man on a full-time basis. After that it hired an ever-shrinking proportion to work full time. In 1961 in St. Paul, the Bureau employed ninety-four permanent workers and thirty-seven temporary ones. Five years later the ratio was reversed; the Bureau employed only forty-four permanent workers and seventy-four temporary ones.26 The full-time St. Paul workers in 1966 received an average wage of $8,500 and the long-term seasonal workers, an average wage of $2,600. An additional twenty-five persons, mostly students, found short-term seasonal jobs with the Bureau at an average annual wage of S630.27 Furthermore, income from other sources failed to compensate for these low wages. Though there was now some off-island employment, a few small businesses, and transfer payments, retirement, unemployment, and welfare-income from these other sources represented less than 20 percent of the St. Paul Aleuts' total income in 1966.28 In other words, the Bureau still paid more than 80 percent of the Aleuts' total wages. A detailed economic analysis of St. Paul, reveals the distribution of gross household income averaged for 1966 and 1967: * 20 percent of all households earned less than S4,000 a year; 22 percent, between $4,000 and $8,000; 35 percent from S8,000 to $12,000; and 23 percent, more than $12,000.29 Consider that! Nearly half the households earned less than $8,000 a year and an average household contained 6.3 persons.30 Yes, economic reform on the Pribilofs engendered a new set of economic problems. From that time forth, under­employment and inadequate income plagued the Pribilovians.

 The training component of the economic reform package encountered many obstacles. Placing high priority on this goal, McKernan emphasized training both for relocation and for management positions on the islands. The rub was that, eager to unload responsibilities for Pribilof programs onto other agencies, management relied on the Bureau of Indian Affairs to fulfill the training function. And the Bureau of Indian Affairs program failed to excite the interest of the Aleuts or to provide training for staff positions on the islands. In 1961 McKernan acknowledged the Bureau of Indian Affairs' failure in this regard:

Management officials… felt that the BIA relocation and training program fulfilled this need but such a program, while certainly worthwhile from a relocation stand­point, has not produced the training requested by the Director. The Director reiter­ated his request for a positive training rogram to qualify Pribilof Aleuts for posi­tions presently held by staff employees.31

Believing that staff disinterest subverted the training goal, McKernan exhorted his managers:

The fact that nothing has been accomplished cannot be justified or excused. It can only be attributed to indifference or disagreement with my views. If there is some reason why this program is not going forward, please advise me in full. If not, I expect immediate action.32

 Undoubtedly, McKernan sought to inspire middle‑level managers to more conscientious efforts in convincing Aleuts to pursue training. One wonders if middle‑level managers, threatened by the injunction to train Aleuts for their own positions, subverted the training goal. In a recent interview Baltzo suggested an alternative explanation, that the slow progress reflected administra­tors' reluctance to coerce the Aleuts in any way: "We encouraged them, we tried to persuade them as honestly as we could ... but we bent over backwards to make them sure we wouldn't feel offended if they didn't adopt our views." 33 But whatever efforts staff might have made, the success of the training program was inherently limited by the lack of funds for implementation. The St. Paul agent called attention to this reality: "You write now as if there was funds available for this sort of thing . . . but we have not heard about it. Why can't we get help for those already trying to get an education on their own?', 34 By this time a significant number of Aleuts were pursuing education and training with no help from the Bureau. Yet, McKernan continued to upbraid staff for failing to inspire Aleut interest in the admittedly inadequate Bureau of Indian Affairs training program. And, indeed, few Aleuts responded; for example, in 1961, the program director indicated that only four Aleuts were enrolled in formal vocational training.35

 The failure of the training program can be attributed to management's pursuit of conflicting goals to train Aleuts for staff positions on the islands and at the same time to transfer responsibilities for the training to another agency over which it had no control and whose program was inadequate. Evidently the interest in transferring responsibilities held dominance and the training program faltered.

Nevertheless, McKernan's insistence on training Aleuts for staff Positions within the villages produced some results through on-the-job training. Although reluctantly at first, administrators equipped Aleuts to manage and operate the Pribilof facility. A highly significant development, this, repre­senting as it did, along with full civil service status and wage equality, a major breakthrough in removing inequality on the islands.

Baltzo actively sought to eliminate other practices symbolizing inequality. Unlike Olson who had spent only about six weeks of each year on the islands. Baltzo, convinced that his mission required knowledge and under-standing of Aleuts, lived at St. Paul for six months of each year. Furthermore, unlike past managers, Baltzo declined living in the manager's house atop a hill overlooking the flatlands where the Aleuts resided. He divided the hilltop house into apartments, and with his family moved to a modest dwelling in the town. Reversing the deeply entrenched pattern of social segregation, Baltzo and his wife invited Aleuts to visit and socialize.

 Legalizing alcohol on the islands was one of Baltzo's first priorities. The ban on drinking applied to all residents, white and Aleut, but,  Baltzo said, it was enforced only against the Aleuts. Baltzo considered this to be gross discrimination, and perhaps too he perceived the repeal of prohibition as a step in acculturating Aleuts to prepare them for relocation. Reflecting persisting colonialist mentality, Baltzo's staff, however, adamantly opposed him on this issue, arguing that repeal was against the best interests of the Aleuts. "That is beside the point," Baltzo recalls telling them, "the Aleuts are free citizens." 36 Evidently McKernan supported Baltzo, and in May 1962, although thirty years later than the rest of the country, the government repealed prohibition in the Pribilofs.37

The Aleuts responded enthusiastically, not only because package liquor was now available, but because of the symbolic meaning of the repeal, as a sign of equality with the white overlords. And although Aleuts had been denied self-government for many decades, they displayed a remarkable readiness to assume responsibility for liquor control. Immediately, both commun­ities enacted regulations that limited sales to beer, one case a week per person; limited the place of sales to the canteens; prohibited sales on Sun­days and during working hours; and denied purchase rights to persons who disturbed the peace or neglected their families. Furthermore, the Aleuts organized a local constabulary and judiciary to enforce regulations.38 At first the community councils assumed this responsibility, but they met with limited success. For one reason, Aleuts are reluctant to inform or testify against their fellows. For another, Aleut police hesitate to engage in actions such as arresting drunkards that might alienate their fellows. The records of the St. George Community Council reveal repeated instances of the ineptness of local law enforcement. Here are several examples.

 June 29,1963, St. George Community Council

 …that council should do something about police force and judge. The reason they want to quit from the force…said it was personal reason so council subjected that they'll straighten that out on next council meeting.39

 August 5, 1964, St. George Community Council

 Meeting was about ... absence of village judicial and enforcement authority. Successors need to be appointed and they must be supported in carrying out their official duties.40

 St. Paul experienced a similarly disappointing outcome with a local police force, and in 1965, in cooperation with the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Alaska Department of Public Safety, the community hired a state trooper, each of the three parties paying an approximately equal share of the trooper's salary.41 The trooper provided job training to several local residents, and when he left St. Paul in 1971, the community resumed responsibility for police functions. Judicial functions by then were handled in a conventional manner; offenders were sent to Anchorage for hearing or trial. And the long and atrocious history of agent juridical control died.

 Baltzo also successfully promoted an end to federal restrictions on visitors to the islands. This effort arose not at his instigation but in response to pressure from a new and potentially powerful interest group‑the Alaska natives. Until 1960, the Alaska Native Brotherhood in southeastern Alaska remained the sole native organization with a pan‑Indian orientation. Thencame the Statehood Act which authorized Alaska to select 104 million acresof land and required it to disclaim any right or title to native lands. However,Congress had never clarified native land rights. To protect and advance their land interests, natives from every part of the state organized local and regional associations. Accompanying these developments was the first statewide native newspaper, Tundra Times, which published scathing editorials about in­justice on the Pribilofs. In 1964, when management denied an Aleut candidate for the State Legislature access to the Pribilofs, the Tundra Times publicly decried the act.42 Soon after that, Alaska's Governor Egan dispatched the State Human Rights Commission to the Pribilofs to investigate civil rights violations. These pressures brought immediate results. Baltzo recommended lifting the ban on visitors and the Washington office followed suit. Yes indeed, these actions connoted new management ideology and behavior. In place of contempt and oppression, management responded  positively  to the demands of the Aleuts and their supporters and reversed a number of discriminatory practices. But this responsiveness had limits. Management harbored its own conception of what form Aleut independence should take, and when its notions conflicted with those of the Aleuts, management was not only unresponsive but devious. The consolidation plan exemplified this response.

 Management's eagerness to consolidate the two villages at St. Paul reflected not only economic considerations‑it was far less costly to provide one set of services and amenities than two, especially in villages with such small populations but also interest in facilitating resettlement. St. Paul was a more acculturated community than St. George, and, apparently, managers believed that consolidation at St. Paul would speed up the St. George Aleuts' acculturation and thereby prepare them for resettlement. In the course of implementing the resettlement policy, consolidation appears to have taken on a symbolic value, as a test of the feasibility of the resettlement policy; if management couldn't convince St. George Aleuts to emigrate to nearby St. Paul, then how could it hope to persuade them to move away from the Pribilofs? Consequently, management placed high priority on consolidation.

According to Baltzo, the consolidation policy originated locally rather than in Washington. After several St. George families requested to move to St. Paul, Baltzo and other field administrators conceived the plan. At first, Baltzo said, members of both communities agreed to the idea, and Baltzo proceeded to carry it out. 43 Washington officials rather quickly embraced the consolidation goal. As early as 1962 high‑level managers advanced the policy at a meeting with the Alaska Congregational Delegation.

Keep in mind that the long‑range objective is the placement of the island operation on a seasonal basis.... In this connection we would suggest that we take positive steps toward consolidating the two island communities by setting a target date of perhaps 1975 or 1980 as the date by which we would propose complete transfer of St. George residents to St. Paul. In the meantime new houses and other construction not essential to the sealing operation would be built only at St. Paul.44

 That same year, managers promoted the consolidation issue at St. George. The Community Council expressed concern: "There was still talk about moving over to St. Paul whoever wants to but this they did not say, if we really don't want to nobody been force." 45 Thereafter, minutes of community council meetings reveal consistent opposition to the idea.

 March 12, 1963

Community council meeting with Mr. Bob Carrol (community development officer hired by the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries). Discussions were about relocation of St. George people to St. Paul. Something we are all going to take action against. 46

  January 28, 1964

Subject: To discuss about trying to move us families to St. Paul. And three families are moving to St. Paul on this coming boat as volenters. All members doesn't want to go to St. Paul.... President said that every member of community club has got to be at the meeting. To fight all together, to have more power. Bob Carrol was trying to force to say, yes, when he goes around the houses and questions us....

They promise us that anybody going to St. Paul will hold their job they had over here. And they said B.C.F. is trying to drop this island. All members are plan to send out letter to authorized persons.47

 The old guard, the new guard, Baltzo, McKernan, up and down the line, managers seemed united in effecting the consolidation. They induced St. George Aleuts to move to St. Paul with promises of jobs and houses, promises that engendered resentment and concern in St. Paul, for the Aleuts there were still reeling from the reduction in force. Moreover, they faced a constant housing shortage; when people married, often there was no place for them to live other than with relatives. Managers used many subtle pressures to persuade St. George Aleuts to move: "Our request for a furnace was met with a suggestion that we move to St. Paul," recalled a St. George woman.48 Covert threats were common:

They have been asking individually certain people, "Are you going over to St. Paul?" When the answer is "No," then they answer back to them, "You just think so." It seems like it is forcing them to move over this way.49

Once St. George Aleuts did move to St. Paul, island managers (the new title for agents) immediately burned their houses so there was no returning. A special investigating committee appointed by the governor in 1965 confirmed this practice: "Bureau of Commercial Fisheries officials informed the Commission that it has been the policy to demolish a dwelling at St. George every time there is a net reduction in the number of families requiring housing space there. The objective is a gradual shift of almost all the inhabitants of St. George to St. Paul.50 United States Senate hearings held on the Pribilofs in 1965 regarding Senator Bartlett's proposed new fur seal act lent furthur corroboration. Bartlett himself seemed unaware of the demolition practice. 51

 Senator Bartlett. You mean the houses over there have been demolished.

 Mrs. Susie Merculief. Yes.

 Senator Bartlett. Were they in good condition?

 Mrs. Susie Merculief. Yes. Most of them were. Only two of them were pretty old ... I could have moved to one of those houses  that were destroyed, from the one I am living in now because it is very old....

Excuse me, that is another reason, too, they don't like to move over there. If they want to return to St. George, they don't have a house to return to, to live in. It is destroyed as soon as the person leaves....

Mr. Foster. Is that the policy . . . to destroy every house of anyone who moves from St. George?

Mrs. Susie Merculief. I understand they were supposed to destroy two houses every year and two built over here every year....

Senator Bartlett. Let me interrupt you right there. Let's ask the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries if that is the fact.

Mr. Baker….The thought was, however, to hold constant the total number of housing units on the Pribilof Islands, feeling that from the standpoint of the fur seal industry this was adequate or more than adequate to provide housing for the industry people

That has been the policy, Mr. Chairman.

Senator Bartlett. The Committee doesn't quite understand yet why it is necessary to tear down a house, old as it may be, but still serviceable and usable. Why was that done? Your answer hasn't explained this to me at all. Was it a move to force the people over there and to make them stay here?

Mr. Baker. No sir, it was not intended that way at all.

Senator Bartlett. Who ordered the houses destroyed and why were they destroyed?

Mr. Baker. Any home that is left on St. George at the time the family moves to St. Paul obviously must be maintained. It cannot just sit idle without deterioration.

If it is maintained there is an added expense to the government.

Senator Bartlett. What form would this maintenance take? Why would it be so expensive?

Mr. Baker. My understanding is that the buildings have to be kept heated in order to prevent deterioration through dampness and cold. If this is to be done, it must be done by the Bureau....

Senator Bartlett. As a matter of public policy, since this is Government property, let's say dampness got into the house and it deteriorated a bit, it could still be there standing and it could be utilized with a little refurbishing if a need arose. If it is destroyed, that can't be done.52

Exposure at the Bartlett hearings put a stop to the demolition of houses, but not to managers' pressure to move St. George Aleuts to St. Paul. And these endeavors met with some success. Between 1964 and 1970, thirteen St. George families involving sixty‑eight individuals moved to St. Paul. 53 Still the majority stubbornly remained despite the persistence of the consolidation goal.

 St. Paul Aleuts also feared losing their houses if they emigrated, not because of demolition but because management might assign the houses to other persons. Consequently, they hesitated leaving the village even for temporary employment. At the same time, the reduction in force produced pressure to take outside jobs. Aleuts again urged management to give them title to their homes.

Inquiry was made about the possibility of buying a house from the government and making monthly payments. The Council members were advised that the possibility of transferring title to the houses was considered and dropped because of government ownership of the land and the lack of authority for doing so....

The Council was concerned about arrangements that could be made for an individual leaving the island temporarily to work to retain his home on the Island.... No encouragement was given on this score.54

Despite management's intransigence on this issue, Pribilof Aleuts increasingly left the villages for temporary work; survival required it, but few left permanently. Ironically, between 1960 and 1966 (the Bureau kept migration data only until 1966) only thirty St. Paul Aleuts permanently left the village, while, after the restriction on immigration had been lifted, 107 (more than one-third from places other than St. George) moved permanently to St. Paul.55 The resettlement plan was not only losing ground, but the reverse was taking place - permanent immigrants outnumbered emigrants.

 Managers imposed their notion of Aleut independence in yet another way, by promoting religious diversification. In 1965 the Assemblies of God applied for a permit to build and administer a church at St. Paul. After checking the legality of the application, McKernan offered full support: "You are authorized and encouraged," he wrote his second in command, "to assist and cooperate with the Alaska Assemblies of God and any other religious denomination which may desire to establish a church on St. Paul Island." 56

 Baltzo claimed that the Fish and Wildlife Service never actively encouraged this application but that managers were caught in a bind because of the emphasis on equality. Baltzo remarked: "How could we advocate equality for the Aleuts and deny it to the Assemblies of God? The minister claimed that the whites on the island had a right to a church of their own."57 Further, Baltzo pointed out, the Assemblies of God attorneys threatened a court suit if their application were denied.58

 However, the advent of the Assemblies of God mission represented more than happenstance. As early as 1949, the director of the Fish and Wild­life Service as well as other Department of Interior officials in the special survey group advocated religious diversification on the Pribilofs. Apparently convinced that Aleuts' acculturation required religious diversification, the group recommended: "The way must be administratively clear for them (managers) to furnish additional religious and social leadership among the natives."59 Thus, McKeman acted on a policy that had been set down over a decade earlier.

 The Aleuts first learned of the Assemblies of God application, not from the Bureau, but from friends in Fairbanks. They were irate. Aleuts were ardently devoted to the Russian Orthodox Church. As one feature after another of their traditional way of life disappeared, they clung ever more tenaciously to the church as a cultural bulwark. The church represented not just a valued religious institution but also a cultural one of great significance. They immediately protested the application to the Secretary of the Interior. The Russian Orthodox bishop followed suit:

As Bishop of Sitka and Alaska and the spiritual shepard of all of the permanent in­habitants of St. Paul I ask you, Mr. Udall, to be kindly toward the members of my religion and to give your orders for the protection of my spiritual flock from the troubles and temptations to which they are now being subjected. Will you please explain to me how the United States of America can be a party to, or condone and sanction, these troubles and temptations.60

Flatly dismissing the Aleuts' and the Bishop's appeals, management granted the permit to the Assemblies of God. In 1966 the new church was built, but no Aleuts joined. Apparently thwarted and hostile at the Aleuts' disinterest, the pastor of the new church harrassed the Russian Orthodox Aleuts. In April 1967, during the Russian Orthodox Good Friday and Easter services, the pastor blew a bullhorn over a loudspeaker near the Russian church. An Aleuts' letter to the pastor about this intrusion merits citing for its brilliant irony.

While the Congregation of our Orthodox Believers were in church, in reverence of our Lord's Passion and long suffering, we heard a loud noise coming from a loud speaker attached to the side of your house.

It was a great help, reminding us of the Bible: "Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Matt. 4:1.... We are aware of the consequences of unbelief. "And many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Matt. 24:11,12.

 If you should think of playing more, during our services, think of those and also remember the Unity of Believers. "Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement," 1: Cor. 1:10.

. . . It is understood by everyone involved, that permission was granted to you on "revocable land use permit, and primarily for persons on the Island who are not affiliated with the local Russian Orthodox church."

You know as well as I do that the local community council did not adhere your request for them to endorse your idea to establish a church here.

You may remember the time when you and Mrs. . . . visited my house inviting my family to attend your "opening day service," it was then I chatted with you both letting you know that I was not interested in going and I further stated that there must be places where there is no church and the people could use of conversion faith, and if I remember correctly, there was such a place where you stated that "the people worship their cows and will not butcher them for food, etc." It was then I stated that if I was a pastor interested in helping people to find God that I would go to such a place and at the same time I questioned why you did not plan establishing your church there, instead of here where we've had our faith from time immemorial.61

Clearly, religious diversification produced a different consequence than management had anticipated; it had, in fact, created an enormous aggravation for management. Baltzo responded to the bullhorn incident with a memo entitled, "Competitive Christianity."

Since returning from St. Paul Island . . . I have been filled in on the distressing details of Reverend . . . 's bullhom operation on Russian Orthodox Good Friday and Easter.... Had I been aware of this incident when in Seattle I would not have reassured you as I did that local friction would probably die out as contesting parties got to know each other better. Mr. . . . 's interference with the Russian services was obviously deliberate, his disturbance of the peace extremely blatant, and his explanation patently untruthful and defiant.

It seems clear that we have a difficult personality to deal with.

I have been defensive of the AOG church here in the past only because I believed that freedom of religion is guaranteed at St. Paul just as surely as anywhere else under the U.S. Constitution. I cannot share (the Bishop's) opinion that his organization has sole and exclusive right at this location. As things now stand, how­ever, I think (the pastor) has proven to be his church's own worst enemy because his initial modest congregation has now dwindled to almost none....

I would greatly appreciate your advice on effective remedial action. . . . In the meantime, local leadership is trying to exercise objective judgment and ameliorate personal feelings of outrage.62

 In reply to this letter, Baltzo's superior asked if there were any terms or conditions of the permit which would allow the Bureau to cancel it.63 Apparently there weren't, for the mission remained, albeit with no Aleut members. And clearly the "religious and social leadership" of the pastor and the presence of a Protestant sect contributed nothing to Aleuts' acculturation and desire for relocation.

 Management policies in the 1960s reflected the same economic imperatives as in the past though the direction changed under significantly altered circumstances; both the Aleuts and the seal industry threatened to become economic liabilities. In response to this reality, the Bureau adopted a new policy direction calling for abandonment of the islands and conversion to a seasonal operation. The latter was within its power to effectuate, but not the former. Given the growing influence of outside interest groups, including new forces of change generated by Alaska statehood and the establishment of the relatively pro-Aleut faction.within the institution, management had to Respect the Aleuts' determination to remain permanently in their communities.

 Integral to the abandonment policy was the goal to emancipate the Aleuts, to develop and train them either for resettlement or for managing the seasonal operation. Emancipation ran into trouble when management's notions conflicted with those of the Aleuts regarding consolidation of the two villages and religious diversification. Otherwise, management's efforts to promote Aleut independence brought a virtual end to the colonial relationship on the Pribilofs, What the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries failed to redress, the new Fur Seal Act of 1966 accomplished. While the new act retained the section 8 provision, it resolved most persisting traces of inequality. One of its main purposes was to facilitate the Aleuts' self-sufficiency and self-government. The act provided for the transfer of government land and houses to Aleuts, legal steps for township incorporation under Alaska law, which meant taxing privileges; and retirement credits for the years worked before 1950. Finally, the act further reduced the Aleuts' dependence on the Bureau by transferring responsibility for their health to the United States Public Health Service and for their education to the State of Alaska.

 Thus, the Bartlett Act, as the new act was called, officially ended de jure inequality in the Pribilofs. Putting it into effect, however, was still ahead and involved grappling with new forces of change in the 1970s.


 1. "Calculation of Payment to Alaska in Terms of Number of Sealskins, 1945 to 1964." Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives and Records Center, Seattle.

2. "Review of Fur Seal Operations and Administration of the Pribilof Is­lands." Report to the Congress of the United States by the Comptroller General of the United States. June 1961, p. 25; "Annual Report of Sealing Operations, Pribilof Islands, Alaska, 1968," p. 2. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

3. The new plan included, for the first time, the killing of female seals. The specific objective of the plan was to reduce the population to a level that would produce about 400,000 pups annually. The expected result was an increase in the total harvest and then stabilization with an estimated sustained yield of 55,000 to 60,000 males and 10,000 to 30,000 females. Federal Register, Vol. 38, No. 147, August 1, 1973, p. 20599.

4. "Employment‑Administration of Pribilof Islands, July 1970." Compiled by Bert Johnson, September 17, 1970, p. A-25 (annual seal harvest quotas),

p. A‑3 (net revenues and payments to Alaska). National Marine Fisheries Service Records, Seattle.

5. Computed from data in Don C. Foote, Victor Fischer, and George Rogers, St. Paul Community Study: An Economic and Social Analysis of St. Paul, Pribilof Islands, Alaska (Fairbanks: University of Alaska, Institute of Social, Economic and Government Research, 1968), p. 31; Census data, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, St. George Island.

6. General Manager to Chief, Division of Resource Management, August 6, 1959. Supplement to July 15, 1959 Memorandum, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

7. General Manager to Chief, Division of Resource Management, July 15, 1959, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

8. "Minutes," Meeting in Director's Office, March 15, 1961. Bureau of Com­mercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

9. Regional Solicitor to Associate Solicitor, Territories, Wildlife and Parks, May 3, 1961; Associate Solicitor to Director, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, May 25, 1961. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, St. Paul Island.

10. Personal Communication, Howard Baltzo, November 10, 1978.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. "Employment‑Administration of Pribilof Islands, July 1970," p. A‑3, National Marine Fisheries Service Records, Seattle.

14. Foote, et. al., St. Paul Community Study, p. 55.

15. St. Paul Aleut to Secretary of Interior, June 24, 1960, Fredericka Martin Records.

16. Senate Joint Resolution No. 9, March 30, 1961.

17. Program Director to Island Managers, June 9, 1961, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives. In reviewing a draft of this chapter, Baltzo clarified his thinking of that time: "You gave the impression that to save a few dollars, we sacrificed the natives. From the point of view of mid­dle‑level staff, the budget was a sacred thing. It was determined from Wash­ington. As far as the administrators in the field were concerned, it never oc­curred to us we were weighing dollars against lives."

18. "Compensation Plan for Employees of the Pribilof Islands Fur Seal Pro­gram," Section 3. Approved by Interior Secretary, June 14, 1962. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

19. Chief, Branch of Alaska Fisheries, to Regional Director, March 14, 1961, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

20. "Revised Pribilof Compensation Plan," January 19, 1961. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

21. Regional Office Staff Member to Program Director, May 9, 1961. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

22. Acting Regional Director to Director, October 30, 1961; "Memo," from Program Director, October 27, 1961; Program Director to Regional Director, June 14, 1961; Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

23. Director to Regional Director, December 7, 1961. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

24. Secretary of the Interior to Director, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, December 4, 1961. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

25. Fur Seal Act of 1966, P.L. 89-102, 80 Stat. 1091 (November 2, 1966).

26. Foote, et. al., St. Paul Community Study, p. 57.

27. Ibid., p. 59.

28. Ibid., p. 63.

29. Ibid., p. 66.

30. Ibid., p. 70.

31. "Minutes, Meeting in Director's Office," March 15, 1961. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

32. Director, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, to Regional Director, March 15, 1961. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

33. Personal communication, Howard Baltzo, October 13, 1979.

34. St. Paul Agent to Regional Office Staff Member, April 7, 1961. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

35. Program Director to Regional Director, April 5, 1961. Bureau of Com­mercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

36. Personal communication, Howard Baltzo, November 10, 1978.

37. Program Director to President, St. George Community Council, April 5, 1963. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, St. George.

38. President, Aleut Community of St. Paul, "Proposed Liquor Control Law for Pribilof Islands," N.D. In 1962 file, Community Council Records, St. Paul; Minutes, St. George Community Council, May 15, 1962; May 19, 1962; September 17, 1963. Community Council Records, St. George.

39. Community Council Records, St. George.

40. Ibid.

41. Program Director to Assistant Director for Resource Development, Octo­ber 17, 1965. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

42. Tundra Times, November 23, 1964, p. 1.

43. Personal communication, Howard Baltzo, October 13, 1979.

44. "Minutes of Meeting," Bureau of Commercial Fisheries with Alaska Con­gressional Delegation, June 12, 1962. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Re­cords, Federal Archives.

45. "Minutes," St. George Community Council, May 5, 1962. Community Council Records, St. George.

46. Community Council Records, St. George.

47. Ibid.

48. Field notes, St. George, 1978.

49. U.S. Congress, Senate, Hearing before the Committee of Commerce on S.2102, 89th Cong., Ist and 2nd Sess., 1966, p. 79.

50. Economic and Social Conditions on the Pribilof Islands, Report by Special Commission Appointed by the Governor of Alaska (Juneau, 1965), p. 9.

51. According to Baltzo, Bartlett did not oppose the consolidation policy. only the house demolition practice. Personal communication, Howard Baltzo, October 13, 1979.

52. Hearings, S.2102, pp. 76-77.

53. "Employment‑Administration of Pribilof Islands‑July 1970," p. A‑8, National Marine Fisheries Service Records, Seattle.

54. "Presentation of Pribilof Islands Compensation Plan," April 4, 1962, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

55. Foote, et. al., St. Paul Community Study, pp. 31 and 33.

56. Director to Regional Director, April 1, 1966. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

57. Personal communication, Howard Baltzo, October 13, 1979.

58. Ibid.

59. "Pribilof Islands Survey Report. Observations and Recommendations," October 8, 1949, p. 7. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Records, Federal Archives.

60. Bishop, Russian Orthodox Church, to Secretary of the Interior, February 6, 1967. National Marine Fisheries Service Records, Seattle.

61. Iliador Merculieff to Reverend . . . , Assembly of God Mission, St. Paul Island. April 28, 1967. National Marine Fisheries Service Records, Seattle.

62. Program Director to Assistant Director for Resource Development, May 19, 1967, National Marine Fisheries Service Records, Seattle.

63. Regional Director to Program Director, June 8, 1967, National Marine Fisheries Service Records, Seattle.

Chapter 9. Centennial, 1971-Present

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