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Published: June 29th 2008
It rained during the night, as we found out in the morning, as water poured off the tent when Dave opened the hatch. However, we never heard the rain during the night. We also noticed we were sitting on the floor of the van, with almost all the air gone out of the mattress, as we got out of the van. Not a good sign. By the time we had breakfast and were ready to go the skies were just cloudy and remained that way throughout the day. First order of business for the day is laundry. How fortunate we were, to find a Laundromat that wasn’t busy and had free wireless internet. Laundry done and two blogs sent, we began our tour of Sitka.
Sitka National Historic Park is a wonderful source of information about the history of Sitka and has many beautiful displays. Sitka is a contraction of what he Tlingit Indians called Shee Atika. The Kiksadi tribe of the Tlingit (pronounced KLINK-it) Indians inhabited this area for nine-ten thousand years before either the Russians or Americans set foot here. In 1799 the Imperial Russians, after finding a drifting boat filled with sea otter fur, as legend has
Tells family history
it, landed in Sitka and built a fort and hunted the otters. The Tlingits became hostile and not wanting to be slaves to the Russian fur trade, attacked the fort and killed almost all of the Russians and their Aleut slaves in 1802.
Alexander Baranof, the manager of the Russian-American Company, retaliated two years later, and although the Natives fought brilliantly for 6 days, they knew they were outnumbered and disappeared from the island silently into the night. After 20 years the Tlingit Indians returned to Sitka but remained in their own section, where the Russians kept cannons pointed at their village. After the Russians depleted the number of sea otters to where it was no longer profitable for them to hunt them, they sold Alaska to the Americans for $7.2 million. The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka in 1867. Sitka was the capital of the Alaskan Territory until 1906 when Juneau took over the title after the gold rush had made it prosperous.
At the Sitka National Historic Park there is a treasury of Native culture. There is a totem pole park, native art displays and a cultural center where art is created in a studio
there. We talked with a native who was carving a fish. He used to be an ivory carver and lived in Nome, he told us. We walked through the Park enjoying the scenery and the totem poles. Totem Poles are a record of the lives and history of the people who carve them. Some poles display the ancestry of a family, some record the history of a clan, some illustrate folklore or real life experience and others honor the dead.
The walking tour around Sitka’s downtown was interesting, starting with the onion-shaped dome of St. Michaels Cathedral, which is a Russian Orthodox Church. Walking up dozens of steps, we reached Castle Hill, which was the stronghold of the Tlingit. The Russians built several buildings on it over the years, the last being Baranof’s Castle, were the transfer of Alaska to America took place. The castle burned in 1894 and no building has sat on the site since.
The Sitka Pioneer’s Home has a sculpture of William “Skagway Bill” Fonda in front and beautiful flower gardens all around it’s lovely grounds. We visited several other historic sites before finding looking for a store where we could buy a new
air mattress. The sporting goods store had a few queen size ones (too wide for he van) and a couple of twin size (too small.) The hardware store actually had a full size air mattress. What luck!
We got everything packed up for our early morning ferry trip. This time we need to be at the terminal at 4:15 am. The good news is it is only a few hundred yards from where we are camped. As soon as the tent was put away, it started to pour, which it did on and off for most of the night. An eagle was flying overhead as I was getting in the van, but there was no way of getting a picture in the deluge.
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