EXPECT DELAYS – Lines of traffic move slowly down Sawmill Creek Road today as a repaving project progresses near the Indian River bridge. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Alaska Day Festival Called Off; Coronavirus Cited

By GARLAND KENNEDY
Sentinel Staff Writer

For the first time since the annual celebration began in 1949, the Alaska Day Festival has been postponed, officials said.

The local observance of the anniversary of the Oct. 18, 1867, ceremony in Sitka transferring Russian Alaska claims to the United States won’t be held because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We involved in Alaska Day kept hoping that difficulties would be resolved, but the problems with travel, and just gathering, were such great obstacles that... what has become normal for Sitka... is not going to happen this year as usual,” Elaine Strelow told the Sentinel today. She has long coordinated scheduling and public relations for the Alaska Day Festival.

Strelow described the ceremony as “a tribute to all who had a part in developing Alaska.”

In years past, the week leading up to the 18th has included a variety of events, including a parade, a ball, a re-enactment, contests, social events  and performances. Worries about risk of spreading the virus at such gatherings have had an impact.

“How can you have a parade with the crowds on the sidewalk and maintain social distancing?” Strelow asked.

She said the postponement is not necessarily a cancellation, and the final decision “will depend on what transpires between now and October.”

“We were unable at this point to anticipate any assurance that the risk to health in the community could be provided for,” Strelow said. “We know that, psychologically, we all need a boost but there just were too many restrictions.”

The Festival in recent years has undergone basic changes, with more recognition of the Native people who where here before the Russians came, and who continue to make up a large part of the Sitka population.

Since 2017, a Tlingit “Mourning Ceremony” has been held at the base of Castle Hill coinciding with the transfer re-enactment on top of the hill.

In a statement prior to last year’s mourning ceremony, organizers Louise Brady and Simon Gorbaty said its purpose was “to mourn the cultural trauma caused by Russian and American invasion, colonization, and forced assimilation,” and that it “acknowledges the land loss and cultural genocide ushered in by the illegal sale of a territory the Russians did not rightfully own.”

They also proposed that Sitka’s October 18 observance be renamed Reconciliation Day.

Brady said that much like the Alaska Day Festival, the Mourning Ceremony may not be held this year out of health concerns.

“We need to take care of our elders,” Brady told the Sentinel today.

“My people are from here. I am Kik.sadi. And we have been here for thousands of years,” Brady said. “Our clan was the one that fought the Russians in 1804. And it is difficult to celebrate for me, as a Kik.sadi person, because it (the Alaska Day ceremony) overlooks and ignores those of us who have been here for thousands of years. And that in turn completely ignores the historical trauma that was brought by both the Russians and the United States.”

Strelow said the Festival organizers have taken note of this.

“Many of us on Alaska Day have been concerned about how do we recognize the significance of the historical event of 1867 but encourage folks to appreciate that there are many ways of looking at the impacts of that event,” Strelow said. “We would encourage the community to understand that there were impacts.”

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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.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-7-20)

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 11:20 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 53

Total statewide – 3,536

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (14 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 141.

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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20 YEARS AGO
August 2000

High prices for chum salmon, low pink returns, and record numbers of fish in Deep Inlet have turned the Sitka fishing grounds into Route 66 this summer. “Overall it’s been a fantastic season so far,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, operations manager for the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will head a gathering of Orthodox prelates from North American and abroad in ceremonies canonizing the first American Orthodox saints, Father Herman of Alaska. A group of Sitkans will fly to Kodiak for the event.

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