Indian River: Past and Present
Sitka National Historical Park lies at the mouth of the Indian River in a region rich with natural resources. The Kiks.ádi, a Tlingit Clan, first landed here many centuries ago and claimed the Indian River as their land and resource base. Russian fur traders arrived in the late eighteenth century to trade and exploit the resources and later to occupy the area.
The Russian settlement and Tlingit ranche (as it was termed) began to swell in the 19th century. Indian River became more heavily utilized as a convenient source of fish, wildlife, and plants. In time, this area also became a site for social and recreational activities. The Tlingit concentrated primarily on subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering in the park and the Russians increasingly used the park for gardening and recreation. By 1890, increased and disparate use of the park necessitated legislation to protect the landscape.
Today, Sitka National Historical Park is used extensively by the adjacent community. The local public in Sitka use the park for recreational and educational purposes. This includes walking, jogging, viewing wildlife, picnicking, school field trips, and enjoying year-round interpretive walks, talks, and demonstrations. Many locals feel a strong sense of ownership toward the park.
The native community considers the Sitka National Historical Park important for several additional uses: specific ceremonial and educational activities for Tlingit cultural conservation, help with curatorial needs upon the expected return of many cultural artifacts from various museums around the country as a result of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, traditional use studies, and support for the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center activities. Despite the pressures of contact, Sitka area Tlingits have continued to maintain their physical, social, symbolic, and spiritual ties to Indian River.
Did You Know?
Alaska’s Governor John Brady asked leaders from several southeast Alaska villages to donate totem poles for public exhibitions outside of Alaska, and eventually, for display at Sitka’s popular public park. More than a dozen Tlingit and Haida poles were placed along the park’s trail in 1906. More...