John Muir


image preview


and a small pipe leading from a very small Russian stove in which the stems of empetrum are burned. I found a Yankee clock in most of the huts that I entered, a few pictures, and ordinary cheap crockery and furniture; accordions also, as they were very fond of music. All such bits of furniture and finery of European manufacture contrasting meanly with their own old-fashioned kind. Altogether, in dress and home gear, they are so meanly mixed, savage and civilized that they make a most pathetic impression. The moisture rained down upon them every other day keeps the walls and the roof green, even flowery, and as perfectly fresh as the sod before it was built into a hut. Goats, once introduced by the Russians, made these hut tops their favorite play and pasture grounds, much to the annoyance of their occupants. In one of these huts I saw arrowheads manufactured for the first time out of bottle glass. The edges are chipped by hard pressure with a bit of deer horn. As the Thlinket [Tlingit]Indians of the Alexander Archipelago make their own whisky, so these Aleuts make their own beer, which if possible is more abominable and destructive than the Hootchenoo. It is called Kvass and was introduced by the Russians. Made from sugar and flour with a few dried apples left to ferment, and usually drawn off and drunk while yet acrid and muddy, making a fiery intoxicating mixture that renders the poor wretches howling drunk and insane, and forms a thirst for rum and alcohol supplied by traders, to some extent. This with the abominable beer renders the misery of the Aleuts complete. There are about 2000 of them scattered along the chain of islands, living in small villages. Nearly all the men are hunters of the fur seal, the most expert making $500 or more per season. After paying old debts contracted with the companies, they invest the remainder in trinkets, clothing not so good as their own furs, and in beer and go at once into hoggish dissipation, hair pulling, wife beating, etc. In a few years their health becomes impaired, they become less successful in hunting, their children are neglected and die, and they go to ruin generally. Their business requires steady nerve, when they toss in their kyacks among surf-beaten rocks where their pretty dwells. But all the proceeds of their labor are spent for what is worth than useless. The best hunters have been furnished with frame cottages by the [Drawing - “Aleut Barabaras.”] companies. These cottages have a neat appearance outside, but are very foul inside. Rare exceptions are those in which one may find scrubbed floors or flowers in pots on window-sills and mantels.

Date Original



Original journal dimensions: 11 x 18.5 cm.

Resource Identifier



Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

Rights Management

To view additional information on copyright and related rights of this item, such as to purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish them, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.


John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist