OPEN AIR CONCERT – From left, musicians Ross Venneberg, Brian Neal, Wade Demmert and Roger Schmidt perform an outdoor brass concert for residents of the Pioneers Home Monday. The professional musicians, who are hunkered down in Sitka, are regulars at the annual Holiday Brass Concert. The Pioneers Home has been closed to visitors during the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Tanya Birkeland, Former Sitkan, Dies at Fairbanks

Tanya Birkeland

Sitka native Tanya Birkeland died at her home outside of Fairbanks on April 29, 2019, after a short battle with liver cancer.

Tanya was born in Sitka May 25, 1954, to Walter Birkeland and Natasha Calvin.

A great-granddaughter of Father Andrew Kashevaroff, a priest at St. Michael’s Cathedral and curator of the first Territorial Museum and Historical Library in Juneau, Tanya  was proud of her Russian and Tlingit ancestry. Her father Walter Birkeland was a music educator in Alaska and Washington, and her mother was well known for spearheading efforts to excavate an archaeological site on Baranof Island, and for providing a number of artifacts for the Calvin/Kashevaroff Collection of Native artifacts at the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka. 

Tanya studied at Western Washington University and earned a computer science degree from Colorado State University. She had a successful career as a software developer, working both for U.S. West in Colorado and later in her career for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

She returned to Alaska in the late 1980s and homesteaded a 40-acre site on the Kantishna River. She became a fixture in the homestead community, and became one of the few women to pilot the Kantishna, Nenana and Tanana rivers.

In addition to being a dedicated caretaker of family members as they battled illness, she was known for being extremely literate, funny and intelligent, as well as being an outstanding gourmet cook.

Tanya’s two sisters – Mary Purvis and Sonia Birkeland – live in Sitka; her half-sister, Kirsten Birkeland, lives in Portland, Oregon.

She is survived by her longtime partner Rich Driscoll at their home in Fox, outside of Fairbanks.

In lieu of flowers, family and friends are encouraged to send donations to Sitka Hospice Care or Fairbanks Medical Hospice Service.





Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-7-20)

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 11:15 p.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Sunday: 19

Total statewide – 1,184

Total (cumulative) deaths – 17

Active cases in Sitka – 8 (3 resident; 5 non-resident)

Recovered cases in Sitka – 12 (10 resident; 2 non-resident)

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 78.

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 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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