Sitka, Alaska, US
Alaska’s first capital had been an active village of native Tlingit people for over 10,000 years when the Russian Alexander Baranov arrived by sea in 1799 and established his Fort Archangel Michael. His presumption as the Tsar-appointed Governor of Russian America evidently aggravated the Tlingits to the extent that in 1802 they stormed the fort and decimated the Russian population, taking a number captive and forcing the others to flee. Baranov returned two years later with a military force and re-established the community which he renamed New Archangel. It served as the capital of Russian America until the purchase of Alaska in 1867. The reminders of its Russian heritage are everywhere in Sitka, and the city contains 22 buildings that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Among the most recognizable are the copper-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Pioneer Home and the Russian Bishop’s House. It was here that the contract of sale was signed that ended Russia’s American adventure and transferred the Alaska territory to the United States. Ironically, Sitka saw the first Native Alaska Brotherhood formed here in 1912 to oppose race discrimination against native people, and the Native Brotherhood Hall was built in 1914. Favorite sights for visitors include traditional Russian performances by the New Archangel Dancers and visits to the fascinating Alaska Raptor Center. Sport fishing for salmon and halibut are also popular, as are various activities in the nearby Tongass rainforest including fly-in hikes and jet-boat tours to view wildlife in the surrounding waters.