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Father Julius Jette: Jesuit Missionary and Alaskan Scholar: History

Fr. Jette as an Historian

An area of scholarship that Fr. Jette rarely receives recognition for is history. Fr. Jette contributed to the history of Alaska, the history of Alaskan missions, and the history of the Native Alaskans. He carefully researched history with his extremely meticulous and mathematical mind, which makes his analysis and record of history quite detailed and accurate. Fr. Jette corrected the history of the Nulato Massacre and pointed out the problems with the original account of the history. In his "Jottings of an Alaskan Missionary," he discusses over a hundred years of Alaskan history. 

Fr. Jette's Record of Secular History

Fr. Jette's legacy continues with his dictionary; however, the same meticulous care that Fr. Jette put into his dictionary, he also put into his documentation of history. His work as an historian was quite extraordinary, especially since at the same time he worked on other academic pursuits such as language, ethnography and geography. 

Fr. Jette wrote the "Particulars of the Nulatio Massacre" to correct the historical record of this massacre. Fr. Jette tirelessly studied and interviewed individuals to attempt to give a more accurate representation of the Nulato Massacre. This particular manuscript shows Fr. Jette's devotion to the Ten'a Natives in Nulato, because he sought to correct a false count of a terrible day in their history. He worked to ensure that the proper history was recorded and remembered. 

In the work displayed below, Fr. Jette recorded the settling of white individuals in Alaska. The history details the white individuals and companies within Alaska since 1868. Fr. Jette worked to determine the date of arrival for the whites and the date of departure. Fr. Jette organized this history under the location of arrival of these white individuals. In addition, he included personal biographies, birth and mortality, and reason for moving to Alaska. He also provided a brief sketch of the government agents that traveled to Alaska and their work in Alaska. 

Fr. Jette's Accounts of Religious History

In the following manuscripts, Fr. Jette recorded the presence of white people among the Alaskan Natives. He pieced together the history of Alaska through the missionaries' diaries, house diaries and other facets that contained Alaskan history. Fr. Jette's contribution of the history of outsiders among the Alaskan Natives represents an important contribution needed in order to understand the Ten'a Natives and the outside influence that has changed the course of their lives. 

Fr. Jette's "Missionaries in Alaska" dates back to 1794, with the arrival of the first Russian missionary. the history also includes notes regarding the nature of the missionary and insightful information, such as location, about the missions being conducted at a given time within Alaska. The history also includes transcribed correspondence which detail the activities and lives of the missionaries working within Alaska. 

Fr. Renner in his published biographical sketch of Fr. Jette discussed the extensive work of "Jottings of an Alaskan Missionary." Fr. Renner writes: "the manuscript, titled 'Jottings of an Alaskan Missionary,' consists of 23,000 words and covers the history of Alaska from 1741 to 1877. This painstaking, meticulous study of historical events, done with all the precision of his mathematical mind, Jette called 'Jottings' because 'it is not meant to be 'sophisticated."'