Administrative History
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Chapter 5:


aerial view of Sitka
Aerial view of Sitka, July 9, 1965. Sitka National Monument is at the top of the photograph.
(Photo courtesy of the Office of History and Archaeology, Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation)


This section treats events of the last twenty years, from 1966 to 1986. It includes a discussion of the creation of Sitka National Historical Park in 1972 that incorporated the monument property and added the Russian Bishop's House. Following completion of the visitor center, park staff began interpretation programs that included the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, an outgrowth of a Native arts program at Sitka sponsored by the Board of Indian Arts and Crafts, U.S. Department of the Interior. The addition of the Russian Bishop's House expanded the values that the park commemorated to include the Russians in North America.

The changing context

In January 1966, Sitka's Saint Michael's Cathedral, one of few remaining structures built by the Russians in North America, burned. This disaster jolted Alaskans to recognize how few properties remained from the area's colonial past. At the same time, Alaskans were planning celebrations to commemorate the centennial of the purchase of Alaska by the United States from Russia. A few years later, in 1969, Atlantic Richfield Company discovered a rich oil field at Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska. People recognized that Alaska would change rapidly.

Simultaneously, the National Park Service was becoming more involved with historic and urban parks. Residents of the United States were undertaking projects to celebrate the nation's bicentennial. Increased attention was focused on the past and preserving evidences of it. In 1966, Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act. The act expanded the National Register of Historic Places and provided grant funds and later tax credits to encourage preservation, restoration, and adaptive re-use of historic structures.

In 1971, Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Section 17(d)(2) of this act directed the Secretary of the Interior to study Alaska's federally-managed lands for possible designation as national parks, monuments, forests, wild and scenic rivers, and wildlife refuges. Nine years later, in 1980, Congress used the studies as the basis for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. This act classified more than 100 million acres of Alaska lands in 36 federal areas as parks, refuges, and other national conservation system units. About forty percent of the land became part of the national park system. The National Park Service operations in Alaska expanded to fifteen administrative units that included scenic, scientific, cultural, and recreational areas and properties. As units statewide and staffs at the units grew, the Alaska Area Office at Anchorage became the Alaska Regional Office.

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Last Updated: 04-Nov-2000