Sitka Travel Guide, Alaska
Sitka is one of Alaska’s prettiest towns with the riches history.
Located in a picturesque place, with the Mount Edgecumbe volcano looking over Sitka, the towns boasts a great variety of outdoor opportunities and entertainment especially during its many renowned festivals.
Sitka’s history reveals the conflict between the Alaska natives and the newcomers. The Russian colonialists enslaved the Aleuts and established a fort in 1799 hoping to expand their otter hunting territory to the east and south along the west coast of North America. Three years later the rich and sophisticated Tlingit warriors considered it as an invasion and massacred the Russians and the Aleut slaves in 1802. Their victory was short lived as the Russian defeated them in 1804 without completely erasing the hostility of their Tlingit neighbors. The Russians rebuilt the town and they named it The New Archangel. It was to be their new capital of Russian- America until federal powers passed control to Juneau in 1906.
The traces of the Russian influence in Sitka are not too impressive as their control over the territory and people was rather ineffective as they didn’t explore the interior. In fact most of the bureaucrats and the naval officers that run the colony were not too fond of the place and left the minute they found the opportunity.
Only few Russian adopted Tlingit culture, but the strong cultural blending occurred under the lasting influence of the Orthodox Church whose influence remained even after the territory was passed to the Americans. Many Alaska natives adopted the new religion especially as they were able to use their mother tongue in worshiping.
Still Sitka has more Russian historic buildings left than the other towns that were under their rule but it is also here they did most of the damage to the sea otter population.
Unlike other younger Alaska towns that have few historic sights, one being able to cover them in a few hours, Sitka has a rich history to remind people of its distant past and the town itself is a close resemblance to what it once was as the historic buildings and sights are well preserved and protected by the National Park Service. Most of them are located downtown at Marine, Lincoln and Katlian streets where you can see the Russians' barracks and a replica of a Russian Blockhouse.
But there are also sights related to ancient Tlingit and American culture and if you want a guided tour for all the sights head to the Sitka Tribe of Alaska's Community House that offers tours including the national historic park, the town and a marine science facility at Sheldon Jackson College and you can also watch some Russian folk dance or native dance along your tour.
Perhaps the main reason for Sitka being so loved is that in spite of its many visitors it has learned to keep its authentic feel unlike other Alaska towns whose streets are full of gift shops. Even is Sitka’s economy is mainly based on tourism the residents have maintained the respect for their culture and history.
Besides its culture and rich history, Sitka is visited for its outdoor opportunities with halibut and salmon fishing at its best and excellent wildlife-watching opportunities as humpback whales stop at Sitka on their way south so you can watch them from a specially designed park built on the shore equipped with spotting scoops and interpretative signs that explain the whales.
See history come alive as you enjoy the area's special monuments, head to the gateway to a large, remote portion of Southeast Alaska, enjoy the outdoor opportunities and you will have an exhilarating experience visiting Sitka.
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