Sitka: Tides of History

At the time that Russian and European explorers reached Southeast Alaska, Sitka was a prominent settlement and home of the Kiks.ádi clan. Tlingits had well-established concepts of land ownership and territorial boundaries, within which each clan exercised stewardship over its land and water. The arrival of Russian settlers violated traditional autonomy and led to conflicts. The first Russian settlement on Baranoff Island was established in 1799. By that time, Russian traders had outposts in the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak, Resurrection Bay and Yakutat. Sitka was the southern-most extent of the Russian colonial effort. In 1801 this effort was officially recognized by the Russian Crown by granting the Russian-American company a monopoly to manage “Russian possessions” in Alaska. In 1802, the issue of ownership over land and local resources resulted in a Tlingit attack on Russian fort. Most of the settlers were massacred, and those who survived fled to the forest and were later transferred to Kodiak on the British ship Unicorn. The Tlingit shaman Stoonook foretold that Russians would return. At his urging, the Kiks.ádi began preparing for the next stage of the conflict. The Neva was to play a crucial role at the next Tlingit encounter with Russians.

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