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)

June 29, 2020, Letters to the Editor

Baranof Statue

Dear Editor: Removing the statue of Alexander Baranov is not negationist history. It’s not revisionist history. It’s not destroying, changing, denying, correcting, rewriting, or modifying history in any way. It is moving an image that many people find offensive from a prominent, government-sponsored, public place of honor. No one is denying the generally accepted events of Alexander Baranov’s life. No one is trying to hide the history. The history exists whatever happens with the statue.

Is a community supposed to be held hostage to every aesthetic decision made by prior elected officials or commissioned by philanthropic sponsors? Once a statue or painting is installed on public property can it never come down? No room here for changing mores, once King George III is up, we’re stuck with him forever! (Even though we never voted for him.)

Luckily not. The history that no one is trying to change shows that people are always changing. A constant ebb and flow of community standards. Different preferences, changing tastes, tolerating and discouraging, conserving and squandering, respectful and offensive, liberating and confining, curious and bored, judgmental and indifferent. Do we live on Sheet’-ká X’áat’l, Sitka Island, or Baranov Island? The name of nearly every place in Southeast has been changed at least once – do we freeze history by saying never change again? Do we abdicate the power to change, forever trapped by a moment of our past? Who owns now? Has history ended?

Sitka National Historical Park has myriad references to people and events from the Russian occupation of this area, as does the Sitka History Museum. There is no movement to close these institutes or hide what they display. Most concerned people would encourage even more history brought to the light in places like these, where we can learn where we came from and choose where we want to go.

The statue is not history – it isn’t a building that was used at a specific timeline, or a cemetery with bodies interred. It’s not a memorial on a site noting events that occurred there. It’s an artist’s representation of a man instrumental in shaping some local history. Moving it is not much different than relocating an interpretive marker to an appropriate location. Yet that simple action can have an immense power by the respect it shows to the sensibilities of our neighbors. The action of moving it will be history, as our choice now will be recorded for future people to judge.

Who, as they grow, are free to choose to change the location again.

John Feryok, Sitka

Climate Lobby

Dear Editor: Members of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Sitka and Anchorage Chapters, had the opportunity to attend a Virtual CCL Conference on June 13 and 14. June 16 and 17 were spent lobbying Alaska Congress members or their aides. The climate conference was held via Zoom with 4,685 others from across the country. The opening speakers were sitting Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Chris Coons (D-DE). These dynamic speakers emphasized the significance of passing bipartisan climate legislation.

The next sessions had many break-out groups concerning climate-related questions and policies. The sessions were varied and a person could choose an area of their interest. The following day, Sunday, there were four seminars from which to choose. Some seminars are available online, see the following link, https://citizensclimatelobby.org/2020-june-conference/.

On Tuesday, June 16, CCL members lobbied: Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s staffer Spencer Nelson; and Sen. Dan Sullivan’s staffer Pierce Wiegard.

On Wednesday, June 17, CCL members lobbied the following: Congressman Don Young’s fisheries aide Kayla Rillo.

At the time of this conference, the focus in Washington, D.C., was disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Most of the staffers and Congress members were working remotely. Don Young’s assistant was working from South Carolina. There is a connection between the pandemic and climate change. Without necessary intervention, they will both get worse. In Southeast Alaska we are experiencing retreating glaciers, the decline of yellow cedar, ocean acidification and warming of stream temperatures, increased storm intensities, ocean acidification affects crab shell hardness, ocean temperatures and wind can alter ocean currents.

Quote taken from the Anchorage Daily News, Letter to the Editor Oct. 7, 2017, written by George Donart: “The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763) has been introduced in the House of Representatives. HR 763 will go a long way toward stabilizing our climate and reducing the heat and acidification that are hitting our salmon. Senators Sullivan and Murkowski and Congressman Young need to stand up for our fisheries and oceans by co-sponsoring HR 763.” Learn more at energyinnovationact.org. H.R. 763-116th Congress (2019-2020).

Judy Kearns-Steffen, member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby,

Sitka Chapter

 

 

Statue Response

Dear Editor: I attended the speak out at the Baranov statue last Tuesday after signing the petition to remove the statue from its current location.  I was impressed with the speakers’ insistence on the need to recognize all histories that are a part of Sitka and agree with their sentiment that our long history of racism and colonization has obscured Tlingit narratives and foundation to the community.

In response to the protest and to Doug Osborne’s accompanying letter, Dr. Fred H. Everest and G. L. Hammons wrote to urge that Sitka history not be “destroyed” and that we must “accept that Russian influences abound.” I’m happy to report that nobody advocated for the destruction of history nor for the denial of Russian influence at the rally.  After a careful reading of the petition, found at chng.it/4YPbSFStwC, I likewise found no language that would confirm either of their fears, and so hope to see their names prominently listed as co-signers in the very near future.

I have further hopes that the Baranov statue itself be critically considered in this discussion, especially given Baranov’s rather pudgy demeanor and the artist’s dashing representation of the merchant’s waistline.  Would it not be negationist history to give such a hip to shoulder ratio to a person clearly not accustomed to wearing the corset that the statue must, under his bronze clothes, so uncomfortably sport?

And, since we know that body politics intersect with all other oppressions, let’s consider why Baranov looks so good to us as a statue.

His thoughtful expression shows us that he is clearly pondering only the most weighty issues and, from his seated pose, his splayed legs do their best to take up at least two seats on the New York subway. He is clearly a man of action. We’ve placed him in the central garden on the approach to the building where we make our most important community decisions.  

In this way, the statue honors the memory of a person who we are encouraged to see as just, fair, and maybe even benevolent, not someone who would deny the humanity of the people whose lands he infringed upon solely so that he could benefit from the sale of sea otter pelts and the labor of slaves.  Why are we so encouraged, through viewing his likeness, not to understand his inhumanity? As Prof. Hammons and Dr. Everest would remind you, there is no reason to fear this greater understanding, and there is only the benefit of a richer, more complicated story when we approach it. 

Since neither the statue nor its honored location come close to representing Baranov’s actions please join me in writing our Assembly to demand the statue’s prompt removal. Let’s make some history.

David Kreiss-Tomkins, Sitka

 

Baranof Statue

Dear Editor: It has always been my understanding that the reason we study history is to learn from our mistakes. To right a wrong is not negating history. Just because a statue is built does not mean it is a proper and correct display of history. The vulnerable in the context of the statue take override over the fact that it has been there a long time. Whether a statue is moved or neutralized by context being placed around the statue is the right of the current population learning from history and respecting our right to move on as a civilization and learn from our mistakes. 

 

Lorraine Inez Lil, Sitka

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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

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TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

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