GRAB AND GO - Library patron Tina Johnson, left, and Joanna Perensovich, information services librarian, wear masks in the Sitka Library this afternoon. The library no longer has couches for patrons, but does have computer desks widely spaced apart for people to access for one-hour periods. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Public Weighs In On Baranof Statue

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

The Assembly heard comments Tuesday night from Sitkans calling for the removal of the Alexander Baranof statue from in front of Harrigan Centennial Hall.

A number of residents came forward in the two Persons to Heard segments of the regular Assembly meeting to say why they believed the bronze statue of the 19th century Russian merchant known as the governor of Russian America should be taken away from its prominent location.

Doug Osborne led off the public comments, reporting that more than 900 signatures had been collected in favor of the statue’s removal, and that it should be done in the interest of “healing and reconciliation.”

He said today that the signature drive was started by Kari Johnson Saturday night. Since then more than 1,080 people have signed, Osborne said, and estimated 800 are from Sitka.

Several other speakers followed, including Harriet Beleal, president of ANB Camp 1; Nancy Furlow, president of ANS Camp 4; Paulette Moreno, Chandler O’Connell, Tom Gamble, Scott Maxwell, Bob Sam and Nick Galanin. Gamble and George Paul also testified at the end of the meeting on the issue.

Most of those who spoke were in favor of removing the statue, with additional suggestions of erecting a monument to Native Alaskans.

“Most of you probably know the history in Sitka, about the 1804 battle in Sitka,” Beleal said. “I would like to remind everyone here our people were not treated very good then and died defending their land here... I would like to say that racial prejudice just doesn’t stop, as we all know. Sometimes it goes down from generation to generation.”

Moreno said, “With a heart of unity today we come together today and provide an opportunity for the City of Sitka and the Assembly to speak their mind that all people, all cultures, all races are invited, are welcome and can exist in their own unique way, within our community. One of those ways is to have a place on an island that reflects the first people of this land, that reflects the true history of the people. To have statues, benches, signs, memorials not only to those who have been here in the last two to three hundred years but to those who have been here for time immemorial ...”

“It symbolizes some horrific things, but it’s part of our history,” Tom Gamble said. “We said this is the guy we beat in 1802 and 1804 and 1805 ... until finally he decided to give us a peace hat.” He suggested a bronze statue of Elizabeth Peratrovich at the roundabout.

“Removing the statue harms no one and creates the opportunity for a healthier and more balanced community, where we can hope we have more historical understanding, more accurate context on what shapes our community today,” Chandler O’Connell said. 

The Alexander Baranof statue, pictured with a patina of bird droppings in front of Harrigan Centennial Hall, was at the center of a protest Tuesday evening just prior to the Assembly meeting. A group of Sitkans is calling for the removal of the 31-year-old statue that depicts the Russian American Company chief manager of the early 1800s. About 50 protesters and a half-dozen statue supporters turned out for the event. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson) 

Before the Assembly meeting about a hundred people held a rally at the statue calling for its removal, with Dionne Brady-Howard and other speakers, and a Tlingit song.

The statue was a gift to the city from Lloyd and Barbara Hames in 1989, commemorating the family’s 40 years in business here. 

In their first public comments on the controversy, Lloyd and Barbara Hames’ grandsons Andrew, Brian and Roger spoke about the good intentions of their grandparents.

“No ill intent was ever meant by our family with this action,” Andrew said, reading a prepared statement. “The conversation in the community surrounding this statue has ebbed and flowed over the years and has surfaced again in light of recent national events. The statue was intended to celebrate our community’s rich history, and the humble role our family has been fortunate to play in it.”

Brian said the family is grieved that the statue offends any community member.

“We value and appreciate the rich diversity of Sitka’s people. We feel that whether the statue stays in its current location or is to be moved elsewhere is not our decision to make. This statue was a gift, and like any gift, whatever is ultimately done with it is up to the recipient, the City of Sitka.”

Roger made the closing comments.

“Dignity and respect, and honoring diversity and culture are some of our core operating values as a company,” he said.

Public comments came to an abrupt stop following the testimony of Nick Galanin, who spoke by teleconference. He suggested replacing the Baranof statue with one that recognizes the contributions of Native Alaskans, such as Elizabeth Peratrovich, William Paul or Katlian. He said the Baranof statue “celebrates the history of white supremacy and ignores the history of murder, rape, torture and enslavement of indigenous people (Baranof) committed. ... Is Sitka a community that will choose to profit from cultural tourism while erasing the history of my culture?”

Galanin also took exception to an email written by Assembly member Valorie Nelson to Larry Edwards, who asked the Assembly to have an open discussion about removing the statue. In her email to Edwards, Nelson said, “Maybe we should remove the totem poles and the war canoe ... ,’’ listed other controversies and ended with a suggestion that if he didn’t like Sitka there are other places to live.

“I’d like to ask that Valorie Nelson steps down from her position,” Galanin said. “I don’t think she’s capable of serving the community with words like that.”

Nelson left her seat at the Assembly table to speak from the public side. She said there was more to the email that wasn’t read. She shared that she had been sexually assaulted as a young child but holds no animosity toward any group of people. She said she is tired of the divisiveness.

“This is wrong, what’s going on. It’s divisive. .... I’m not going to take this any more. Thank you. If I need to step down I will.”

“You will not step down,” Mayor Gary Paxton responded. “You’re a valued member of our Assembly.”

He called an end to public testimony. Coverage of the rest of the regular Assembly meeting will appear in Thursday’s Sentinel.

Paxton added, “As we go forward on this we need to do it in a Christian, civil manner without intimidation, telling our story, and letting our community come together in a positive way to solve what we heard today.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-10-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of noon Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 51

Total statewide – 1,323

Total (cumulative) deaths – 17

Active cases in Sitka – 5 (2 resident; 3 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 13 (11 resident; 2 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 80.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

 

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

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The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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