When the Taa’tl’aa Denae accepted the white man’s law

The upper Copper River Indians of Alaska call themselves Taa’tl’aa Denae, or the Headwater People.  They were among the last Alaska Natives to have whites live among them, and this didn’t happen until after the ’98 Gold Rush.  The Russians had earlier made three separate forays into this Indian land, and had been turned back each time, for these Athabaskan Indians are kin of the Apache, and were war like.

My Uncle Fritz knew these Indians, and admired them greatly.  Until 1957, with the arrival of village schools, they had maintained their traditional subsistence lifestyle.  According to my uncle, at the beginning of the last century the tribal elders held a council, to decide if they should accept the white man’s law.

The old chief presided, and when the discussion had gone fully around he made his recommendation.

“We have lived on this land for thousands of years, and have always known our sacred mountain as Mentasta.  Then a white man came, took one look at the mountain, and said it was Mt. Sanford.  And that is how it is known today.  We were too ignorant to know its name.  So I say we accept the white man’s law, as he knows so much more than we do, even to the names of our mountains.”

 

 

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