Sheldon Jackson

Sheldon Jackson

Rev. Sheldon Jackson (1834–1909) was a Presbyterian missionary in the Western United States in the 19th century. He is particularly known for his missionary work in Alaska, where he was also a political leader.

He was born in Minaville, New York in 1834. He graduated from Union College in 1855, and from the Presbyterian Church's Princeton Theological Seminary in 1858. He became an ordained Presbyterian minister and soon began his extensive missionary career. During this career he travelled about 1 million miles (1.6 million km) and established over 100 missions and churches beginning in the north-central and western United States.

In 1877, Jackson began his work in Alaska. He became very committed to the spiritual, educational, and economic wellbeing of the people of Alaska. He founded numerous schools and training centers that served Alaska Natives. His protégés included the Rev. Edward Marsden, a Tsimshian missionary among the Tlingit. Convinced that Americanization was the key to their future, he actively discouraged the use of indigenous languages and traditional culture. He made numerous trips into Siberia and imported nearly 1300 reindeer from Norway to bolster the livelihoods of Alaska Eskimos. Because he was worried that native cultures would vanish with no records of their past (a process which ironically his own educational efforts would accelerate), he collected artifacts from those cultures on his many trips throughout the region.

Jackson believed that political means would further his goals for the Alaskan people. He became a close friend of U.S. President Benjamin Harrison. He worked toward the passage of the Organic Act of 1884, which ensured that Alaska would begin to set up a judicial system and receive aid for education. As a result, Sheldon Jackson became the First General Agent of Education in Alaska.

Sheldon Jackson died in 1909. Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska is named after him.

Also, the Sheldon Jackson Museum, located on the Sheldon Jackson College grounds, is the oldest concrete building in the state, and houses much of Sheldon Jackson's collection as well as other examples of Tlingit, Inuit, and Aleut culture.


* "Alaska, and missions on the north Pacific coast" (1880; [ Digitized page images & text] )

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