the legacy of sheldon jackson

The Presbyterian missionary and politician Sheldon Jackson was a leader in the establishment of missionary stations and schools throughout Alaska, who felt "concern" for Alaska Natives. The U.S. Organic Act of 1884 established a range of government systems for the Alaska Territory, and with it, Jackson became the First General Agent of Education in Alaska. Faced with limited funds and the task of providing for education statewide, Jackson approached the mission boards of mainline Protestant churches to seek their support. Alaska was "essentially carved up" between various church denominations for education and missionary encounter. A system of regional boarding schools was established in the 1900s. When rural young people reached high school age, they were sent to regional hubs or to Lower 48 schools to fulfill their legally required education benchmarks.

The Molly hootch case

In the 1975 "Molly Hootch case" (Tobeluk v. Lind), 28 Alaska Native young people and their families argued that Native boarding schools were discriminatory, and they fought to be allowed to stay in their home communities through their high school years. Rural Alaskans took back the reins of power in shaping the educational destiny of their children. The court's consent decree demanded the construction of a new high school in 126 rural communities. The education landscape in Alaska changed dramatically--once again.

snapshot: The Covenant Church & Covenant High School

The Covenant Church was established in Unalakleet, Alaska in 1887 by Swedish missionary Axel Karlson, who was traveling to Siberia. The Evangelical Covenant Church then started a boarding high school there in 1954. 

  Boarding school students at St. Mark's Episcopal Mission, Nenana, Alaska 1924

Boarding school students at St. Mark's Episcopal Mission, Nenana, Alaska 1924

Policies for Covenant High

An example of the objectives of a rural Alaska mission school:

1. To provide a good secondary education for the promising young people of Unalakleet and surrounding Covenant villages.

2. To aid in the building of an indigenous church through the training of our young people.

3. To build a student body which will give a fertile and productive field from which to choose future Native pastors.

4. To provide a sound basis for the spiritual and social life of the adolescents of our field.

related pages:

1967 - feb 24 rebeca nelson.jpg

The Children's Home: Nunapitsinghak

Discover the incredible stories and history behind the Moravian Children's Home, an Alaskan orphanage and boarding school which opened in 1926 near Kwethluk, Alaska through interviews and photographs.
Created by Katie Basile and Erica Rudy.