A stroll through the streets and National Historic Park of Sitka is a glimpse into its unique and colorful past. A blend of Tlingit and Russian cultures defines this first capital of Alaska. Although fish canning and gold mining were the initial catalysts for growth in Sitka, the construction of an air base during World War II truly paved the way for Sitka to come into its own. One of Sitka's most intriguing structures is the Cathedral of Saint Michael, built in 1848 to honor a Russian Orthodox bishop.
Sitka’s history begins thousands of years ago with the Tlingit people and their use of the land for sustenance and spirituality. Old Sitka, located just north of the present-day settlement, was founded by Russian-American Company trader Alexander Baranov in 1799. Originally named Novo-Arkhangelsk (New Archangel) under Russian rule, its name was changed to Sitka after Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867. Sitka is a Tlingit word meaning 'by the sea.’