The National Park Service and the Sitka Cultural Center kicked off the centennial celebration of the establishment of Sitka National Historical Park with a series of public events this week.
The park was established on March 23, 1910 by President William Howard Taft. It was previously designated as a federal reserve in 1890.
Last Saturday’s activities began with a “Battle Ride” led by Kiks.adi Clan leader Ray Wilson and historians Richard and Nora Dauenhauer that retraced the events of the Battle of 1804. The “ride” started with a boat tour along the waterfront between Old Sitka and Indian River, and was followed by a walk through the park to the 1804 battle site. There was a free community picnic that afternoon at the park visitor center.
The centerpiece of the celebration took place at the fort site clearing on Sunday, highlighted by the presentation of a specially-commissioned raven’s tail robe to Sitka National Historical Park. The robe was designed and woven by renowned Tlingit artist Teri Rofkar. A community dance to celebrate the robe, with performances by Sitka’s cultural dance groups, took place that afternoon and evening at the Centennial Building.
Activities continued on Monday, with open houses at the Russian Bishop’s House and the park visitor center, including free tours and interpretive talks. The day’s events wound down with the premier screening of a new film produced specifically for the centennial entitled “The Russian Bishop’s House – An Icon Reborn.”
On Tuesday, the anniversary of the park’s creation, resident artists at the Sitka Cultural Center instructed Sitka’s young people on classic native art forms during morning and afternoon workshops. The final public event of the park’s anniversary day was the grand opening of an exhibit of images by renowned photographer E.W. Merrill, which took place in the evening at the visitor center. Merrill was commissioned by territorial governor John Brady to arrange the totems in the park after they had been part of the Alaska exhibit at the 1904 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon. Merrill later became the first paid caretaker of the park when the National Park Service was established in 1916.
Additional commemorative events will take place throughout the year. Information on these and other upcoming centennial celebration activities is available by calling 907-747-0110 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.