(1817 - 1892)

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Photo of Kawaee.

Kawa.ée, date unknown.
Photo from Alaska's Digital Archives.

Kawa.ée was an Auk Tlingit Indian whose birth goes back fifty years before the purchase of Alaska from Russia, and long before there were written records of most tribal births. Kawa.ée means "it is cooked", and is considered to be a prestigious name in the Auk Tlingit culture. Alternative spellings of Kawa.ée, include Koweeh, Kowee, Cow-eeh and Cowee, which were found in Pilz's memoirs, early newspaper reports, maps, and mining claim documents. It appears that Kawa.ée was a clan leader of the Young's Bay Auk Village on Admiralty Island. He was a member of the Raven clan, and was probably married to Ok-Lak, an Eagle clan woman from an Auk Village sixteen miles north of the present location of the City of Juneau. Kawa.ée was living in this village when he heard of George Pilz's offer of,

"...100 Hudson Bay blankets and work for the tribe..."
for each commercial gold discovery. Kawa.ée responded by bringing Pilz specimens of quartz, rich with gold, galena (lead ore), and stibnite (antimony ore). The Auk leader was persistent; it appears he made more than one trip to Sitka with samples. We do not know the source of the samples. Prospectors and Alaska Mining Hall of Fame inductees Richard Harris and Joe Juneau later found gold-rich float in Gold Creek and Quartz Gulch, both possible sources for Kawa.ée's samples, but they also staked the Kow.eeh Gold & Silver Quartz Lode Claim on Kowee Creek on Douglas Island on October 12, 1880, so it is also possible that at least some of Kawa.ée's samples came from Douglas Island.

Pilz's accounts credit Kawa.ée with persistence, and with delivering the best of the rock samples brought to Sitka, but written records are vague and often contradictory. To some extent, Kawa.ée represents other Indians of southeastern Alaska who assisted the first prospectors. Some of the samples that Kawa.ée brought to Sitka could have been originally collected by other members of the Auk group. Harris and Juneau seem to have been directly assisted by at least three Indians from the Sitka area. Harris also states that Auk villagers supported his and Joe Juneau's prospecting efforts in the expeditions of mid-summer and October of 1880.

Kawa.ée served as an Indian policeman during the days of Navy rule, and an early photograph depicts him in his uniform and policeman's star. He was highly regarded by the Juneau miners and residents, and was referred to as Chief Kowee on his obituary. After the establishment of the City of Juneau, Kawa.ée lived in the new Auk Village near downtown Juneau, a location that had formerly been used for a traditional Tlingit summer fish camp. Kawa.ée died February 27, 1892, and was cremated four days later at the mouth of Gold Creek (previously named Dzantik'I Heeni, meaning "the place where flounder gather").

By David B. Stone and Charles C. Hawley

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