Today is a good day to reflect on the history of land theft, colonization, and genocide in Alaska. Far from something to be celebrated or reenacted, the illegal “transfer” of Indigenous lands from one colonial empire to another is something Alaska has yet to reconcile with fully.
For myself, and here at SEACC, we are still grappling with the colonial history of the conservation movement in general and the blatant land grab that gave birth to the Tongass National Forest. We cannot understand the history of land stewardship in this region until we understand that the Indigenous people of this region had their land stolen from them, their smokehouses burned down, and their way of life suppressed in order to create the public lands that we now do our best to advocate for. There are few places where that is more blatant than “Castle Hill State Park,” Noow Tlein in Lingit, the former site of Kiks.adi clan houses before Russia claimed the site. This Kiks.adi land is still held by the state and a state-sanctioned reenactment of the illegal sale is permitted to occur every year.
Every day is a good day to take action to right those wrongs, and October 18 is an especially good day in light of it being the 155th anniversary of the “sale” of Alaska. These realities can be hard for all of us to wrestle with and even learn about, but looking toward reconciliation is a key part of shaping the Alaska we want to live in while remembering and honoring the hard parts of our state’s history.
Resources for learning more can be hard to find, especially without putting an unfair burden on the Indigenous people who have to live these experiences and therefore understand them best. Much of what I’ve learned has come about from deep connections to community, and there is no replacement for genuine connection with and service to the Native communities that have always existed on these lands.
But to make it a little easier, I’ve put together this Linktree of commentary, history, and news on both the historical context of October 18 and the more recent efforts to reframe this day. I hope it can be helpful, and if you have more resources or questions, please drop them in the comments.