John Muir


image preview


a town would be hard to find. In summer it may be more comfortable. How a people who look as strong and decent and happy can live here is a great wonder to Europeans. Not one white man in a thousand has the requisite skill to wrest a living from the ice and snow of these regions. Just before we dropped anchor we noticed an American flag flying above one of the huts, which proved to be that of the Chief. In a few minutes we noticed several skin boats being shoved down over the blocks of ice that were stranded on the shore. Into them men, women and children piled themselves and paddled out to the ship and scrambled aboard, bringing out walrus ivory, seal-skin boots, reindeer and bird-skin parkas, mittens, etc. to trade. They uncovered their wares on the deck, forecastle and about the pilot house, offering this and that for tobacco, calico, knives, etc. There was much inquiry for beads, molasses, and most of all for rum and rifles, though they willingly parted with anything they had for tobacco and calico. After they had procured a certain quantity of these articles, however, nothing but rifles, cartridges, and rum would induce them to trade. But according to these are not permitted to be sold by American law. There seemed to be no good reason why repeating rifles should be prohibited inasmuch as they thus more surely and easily gain a living by their use, while they are peaceable and can hardly be induced to fight without very great provocation.. As to the alcohol, no restriction can possibly be too stringent. To the Eskimo it is misery and oftentimes quick death. 2 yrs. ago the inhabitants of several villages on this island died of starvation caused by abundance of rum, which rendered them careless about the laying up of ordinary supplies of food for the winter. Then an unusually severe season followed bringing famine, and after eating their dogs they lay down and died in their huts. Last year Captain Hooper found them where they had died, hardly changed. Probably they are still lying in their rags. They numbered several hundreds. When the people from this village came aboard to-day they said ours was the first ship of the season, and they were greatly delighted, running over the ship like children. We gave them lead, powder and caps, tobacco, etc., for ivory, arctic shoes, and reindeer parkas, in case we should need them for a winter in the ice, ordinary boots and woolen clothing being wholly inadequate. These are the first Eskimos that I have seen. They

Impressed me as being taller and less distinct as a race than I had been led to suppose. They do not greatly differ from the Thlinkets [Tlingits] of S.E. Alaska; have Mongolian features well marked, seem to have less brain than the Thlinkets [Tlingits], longer faces, and are more simple and child-like in behavior and disposition. They never quarrel much among themselves or with their neighbors, contrasting

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