January 1, 1762
As it appears from reports forwarded by Colonel Plenisner, the Bechevin Company during their voyage to and from the Aleutian Islands on a hunting and trading expedition committed indescribable outrages and abuse on the inhabitants, and even were guilty of murder, inciting the natives to bloody reprisals.
In 1762 a conflict occurred which marked the turning point of
Aleut-Russian relations. Promyshlenniks patrolled the waters of the Alaska
Peninsula for food and furs and landed on one of the islands. Their
uncivilized attitudes and actions toward the natives were habitual now.
ingrained into their already rough personalities. Suddenly, a group of
well-organized natives attacked and killed two Russians and injured three
others. Another group almost simultaneously attacked the Russian base
camp, killed four more Russians, and wounded four others. The
makeshift shelters were burned to the ground. The Aleuts were clearly
taking the initiative this time. Later in spring, two more intruders from
the east were killed about three and a half miles inland from where their
ship was anchored. This time the Russians killed seven native hostages in
retaliation. In return for this, the Aleuts attacked the Russian camp but
were unsuccessful. Offensive actions by the natives put the Russians in
temporary retreat. They repaired their ship and returned home with their
rich cargo of 900 sea otter pelts and 350 fox skins.
Even in their retreat they continued their outrages. Twenty-five
young native girls were kidnapped from their home island and given the
task of gathering wild berries and roots for the crew. The ship eventually
reached the coast of Kamchatka where fourteen of the twenty-five girls
and six Russians went ashore. Two girls immediately escaped into the
bills. One was killed by the men. On the small-boat trip back to the ship
the remaining eleven girls drowned themselves either in shame or
despair. To protect themselves, the Russians threw all the remaining
natives overboard to drown.
Authorities in St. Petersburg were aware of the atrocities committed
by the unrestrained fur hunters. But authorities were a quarter of the
world distant in the transportation and communication systems of the
eighteenth century. Efforts at checking the lawlessness which represented
the Russian nation to the people of the new world would come later in
the formation of privileged trading companies. But during the decades of
totally free traffic and totally free enterprise, authorities could only issue
stern warnings against the promyshlenniks.
One such warning read in part:
As it appears from reports forwarded by Colonel Plenisner, who was
charged with the investigation and final settlement of the affairs of the
Bechevin Company, that that company during their voyage to and from the
Aleutian Islands on a hunting and trading expedition committed
indescribable outrages and abuse on the inhabitants, and even were guilty
of murder, inciting the natives to bloody reprisals, it is hereby enjoined
upon the company about to sail, and especially upon the master, Ismailov,
and the perevodchik, Lukanin, to see that no such barbarities, plunder and
ravaging of women are committed under any circumstances.
Such warnings were respected until anchor was pulled.