What about the Copper River Indians?
The prospectors knew they were going into Indian country. The specter of attacks by
hostile Indians persisted in history and imagination.
Historically, the Copper River Indians are credited with the massacre of a party of
Russians who made it up the Copper River only to rob and rape the Indians. The Indians
left one Russian alive to take the story back to "civilization."
In September 1897, a party of 36 gold rushers left Port Townsend on the Topeka
. J.D. Brooks, the leader, claimed that he had been in the Copper River area two years
earlier and taken out $9000 in gold in a week, but had to leave because of hostile
Indians. This time his party was taking 2400 rounds of ammunition per person in case
of Indian trouble.
In his Experiences of Gold Hunters in Alaska
, Margeson reports that his party, too, was concerned about Indians: "A 45-70 repeating
Winchester rifle was purchased for every man in the company, and cartridges enough,
as we thought, to kill all the game in Alaska. But we expected to need some of them
to protect ourselves against the Alaskan Indians, who, we had heard, would try to
prohibit us from intruding into their domains in our hunt for gold."
As the prospectors prepared for their journey, they expected to find Indians wanting
to protect their lands, and they expected to shoot Indians who interfered in their
search for gold.
(Jim and Nancy Lethcoe are the authors of Valdez Gold Rush Trails 1898-99
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