PERFECT WEATHER – Surfers assess the waves at Sandy Beach this morning. Waves were between 14- and 20-feet today. (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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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

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– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 11-24-20)

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 12:25 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 578

Total statewide – 27,669

Total (cumulative) deaths – 115

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 619

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

The City of Sitka posted the following update on COVID-19 cases in Sitka as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Active cases in Sitka – 29

Hospitalizations in Sitka – 3

Cumulative Sitka cases – 176 (155 resident; 21 non-resident)

Cumulative recovered – 147 cumulative

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

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20 YEARS AGO
November 2000

Photo caption: A painting by the late Dr. Walt Massey hangs on the wall of the Pioneers Home dining room,. bringing smiles from home administrator Julie Smith and Massey’s son Brian and daughter-in-law Amy, the home’s dietary manager. The painting of early-day Sitka was done in 1971, the year Dr. Massey, an optometrist and artist, died. It originally hung in the Canoe Club and was given by the restaurant’s owner, Frank Richards, to local historian Joe Ashby, who gave it to the Pioneers Home.

50 YEARS AGO
November 1970

Photo  caption: Sitka High School band director James Hope receives a check for $2,000 from American Legion Post 13 Commander Carroll Kohler. The Legion had voted to contribute $1,000 for uniforms and the Auxiliary voted to match that amount. The check was presented at the Legion’s Veterans Day banquet.

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