A movement to celebrate Reconciliation Day in place of Alaska Day continues to gain steam in Sitka

Dionne Brady-Howard drums and sings during a Reconciliation Day celebration on Sunday, Oct. 17. Members of the Eagle and Raven clans joined in song and dance at the gathering. (Tash Kimmell/KCAW)

Alaska Day is a state holiday recognizing the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. A central event that caps off Sitka’s Alaska Day Festival celebrations most years is a reenactment of that transfer at the top of Castle Hill, or Noow Tlein.

For many, the Alaska Day celebrations and the transfer ceremony atop the hill commemorate the sale of stolen land from one colonial power to another and erase the violent history of colonialism in Sitka.

Noow Tlein was once the site of Lingít Kiks.ádi clan houses, which were later taken by the Russians and destroyed. In recent years, a movement to recognize Reconciliation Day in place of Alaska Day continues to gain steam.

Tribal dancers invite onlookers to participate by imitating the walk of a Raven during a Reconciliation Day celebration Sunday, Oct. 17 in Sitka. (Tash Kimmell/KCAW)

On Sunday, a group of around 100 Sitkans led by Kiks.ádi clan members, gathered atop Noow Tlein to recognize Reconciliation Day. While the gathering emphasized celebration, the group did sing one mourning song.

On Monday, amid Alaska Day celebrations, a group of demonstrators organized by local activists and tribal citizen Louise Brady marched from Gaja Heen or Old Sitka to Noow Tlein.

Drummers and dancers celebrate Reconciliation Day on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 in Sitka with a traditional Lingít exit song and dance. (Tash Kimmell/KCAW)

The march was in commemoration of the “survival march” the Lingít people made across the island following the Battle of Sitka and their expulsion by the Russians from their ancestral home.

The group marched to the top of the hill in protest of the transfer ceremony reenactment holding signs about Reconciliation Day, while Brady lightly drummed. Brady says she hopes to see more respectful conversation about reconciliation in the future.

KCAW - Sitka

KCAW is our partner station in Sitka. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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