DEVELOPMENT OPTIONS – Harbor Point and No Name Mountain are pictured this afternoon from the Old Sitka Cruise Ship Dock. A draft master plan for the Granite Creek to No Name Mountain area was discussed at a joint Assembly and Planning Commission meeting Wednesday. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

(Mary) Jolene (Nielsen, Overman) Rodriguez

(Mary) Jolene (Nielsen, Overman) Rodriguez

In Memoriam:

If you’re about done with summer visitors, buck up buttercup. Consider: (Mary) Jolene (Nielsen, Overman) Rodriguez (you might have known her as “Auntie Jolene”) who went on a long walk into the woods on July 26, 2017. Her spirit is carried on by her three children, grandchildren, three surviving siblings, Sitka Native Education Program kids, Sitka Tribal Tours plus Visit Sitka co-workers and an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life. 

We were lucky for 58 years to have a “master” tour guide to teach us how to love questions and laugh away the stupid. “We want to visit the RAPTURE Center – is it free? What’s the elevation in Sitka? Where is the Native Dance – is it free? Do you have grocery stores here? Hey, you’re a real person.” 

In her lifetime, Jolene made contact time after time and friends every summer. Visitors were always surprised to learn this proud Tlingit woman traveled widely, making her home in Oregon, Massachusetts and North Carolina before returning to Sitka to practice her craft: making people laugh.

She bragged that there wasn’t a bus of cranky, wet complaining cruise ship guests that she couldn’t turn with a wink and a joke. Soon she had them speaking Tlingit “thank you” and dancing with her favorite group, the Naa Kahidi Dancers. As they exited, her voice often rose above the room as she sang along.

“There are a lot of words I could use to describe Jolene, but calm wouldn’t be one of them,” said her friend Tonia Puletau-Lang. “When she was happy about something, joy and excitement would radiate from her whole person, and she would beam. When she was unhappy about something … you KNEW.” Puletau-Lang continued, “That girl loved to laugh and she was fiery! I loved her for it.”

Another long-time love was the Sitka Native Education Program (SNEP) where Jolene mothered many generations of SNEP kids with her driving, life lessons, and cooking. Shawaan Jackson-Gamble wrote on Jolene’s Facebook page, “Lost one of the nicest ladies I knew and best bus driver I had for SNEP. Really gunna miss running into you whenever I got to Sitka. My heart is breaking.”

Those who knew Jolene will remember her every time they taste homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam shared at work for those who wouldn’t take the herring eggs and seaweed. Will hear her sassy voice telling visitors, “It’s almost free and yes, I’m a real person!” as we face down new questions and less-than-awesome visitor attitudes. We will remember her salty sense of humor and love of celebrity gossip websites even when they froze her “work” computer. We will know that her faithfulness signaled to us who loved her that her long walk must have started because she would never have no-called, no-showed to anything she had promised to do. So in honor of our friend we will laugh longer, smile bigger and hug harder and we will not stay calm! 


Jolene is survived by her father, brothers, children and grandchildren along with all of us who loved her like the family of our hearts. If you are wondering how to celebrate her life, we know that Jolene adored visiting the eagles at the Alaska Raptor Center, communing with the bears at Fortress of the Bear, and sending visitors to explore the wonder of St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Donations in her honor are always welcome.



Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 6-4-20)

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 11:00 a.m. Thursday.

New cases as of Wednesday: 8

Total statewide – 513

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 48, and the cumulative number of deaths is 10.

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



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



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.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

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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