Sitka City and Borough, Alaska

From Academic Kids

Sitka City and Borough is a borough located on the west side of Baranof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean (part of the Alaska Panhandle), in the state of Alaska. The borough seat is Sitka, the only incorporated section. Sitka is Alaska's fourth-largest city (in terms of population).

The name Sitka (a contraction of the Tlingit name "Shee Atika") means "people on the outside of Shee." Shee is the Tlingit name for Baranof Island.



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The trading post at Old Sitka.

The area was originally settled by the native Tlingit Indians. Old Sitka was founded in 1799 by Alexandr Baranov, the governor of Russian America. Baronov arrived under the auspices of the Russian-American Company, a "semi-official" colonial trading company chartered by Czar Paul I. In 1802 a group of Tlingit destroyed the original establishment (an area today called the "Old Harbor") and massacred most of the Russian inhabitants. Baranov was forced to levy 10,000 rubles in ransom for the safe return of the surviving settlers.

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Old Sitka, circa 1805.

Baranov returned to Sitka in 1804 with a large contingent of Russians and Aleuts aboard the Russian warship Neva. The ship bombarded the native's village, forcing the Tlingits to retreat into the surrounding forest. Following their victory at the "Battle of Sitka" the Russians established a permanent settlement in the form of a fort, named "Novo-Arkhangelsk" (or "New Archangel," a reference to the largest city in the region where Baranov was born). In 1808, with Baranov still governor, Sitka was designated the capital of Russian America.

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The Cathedral of Saint Michael.

Bishop Innokentii of the Russian Orthodox Church lived in Sitka after 1840. The Bishop's House has since been restored by the National Park Service. The steady influx of American settlers eventually caused the predominate religious influence to sway from Russian to Western European. The Sitka Lutheran Church, built in 1840, was the first Protestant church on the Pacific Coast. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Michael was founded in 1848, and St. Peter's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church was consecrated as "The Cathedral of Alaska" in 1900. A list of all of the buildings and sites in Sitka that appear in the National Register of Historic Places can be found at [1] (

Sitka was the site of the ceremony in which the Russian flag was lowered and the United States flag raised after Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867 after the sea otter pelt trade died out. The flag lowering and raising event is re-enacted in Sitka every October 18 (Alaska Day). After the original ceremony, the entire U.S. government presence in Alaska until the Klondike Gold Rush consisted of a single customs inspector on the island. Sitka would serve as the capital of the Alaska Territory until 1906, when the seat of government was relocated south to Juneau. The state's first newspaper, The Sitka Times, was published by Barney O. Ragan on September 19, 1868.

While gold mining and fish canning paved the way for the town's initial growth, it wasn't until World War II, when the Navy constructed an air base on Japonski Island, (with its 30,000 service personnel) that Sitka finally came into its own. Today Sitka encompasses portions of Baranof Island and the smaller Japonski Island (across the Sitka Channel from the town), which is connected to Baranof Island by a bridge. Japonski Island is the home of Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport (IATA:SIT, ICAO:PASI), and the Sitka branch campus of the University of Alaska Southeast.

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Looking across the harbor in Sitka, Alaska.

The waters around Sitka are famous for the presence of large populations of humpback whales, which sometimes breach and spin before crashing back to the water. Each November the town celebrates "Whale Fest" at the peak of the October-January southern migration of the 40-ton cetaceans, the greatest in Southeast Alaska. Nearby St. Lazaria Island, a seabird haven (part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge) is a home to puffins, petrels, and many other birds. The town's Alaska Raptor Center treats some 200 injured eagles and other raptors annually.


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A view toward Sitka from the Pacific Ocean. The town is the only one in Southeast Alaska that faces the Gulf of Alaska "head-on."

Sitka is located at 57°4'48" North, 135°19'54" West (57.079871, -135.331757)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough is the largest incorporated area in the U.S, with a total area of 12,461.8 km² (4,811.5 mi²). 7,443.6 km² (2,874.0 mi²) of it is land and 5,018.2 km² (1,937.6 mi²) of it, or 40.27%, is water.

  • Average annual rainfall is 57 inches; annual average snowfall is 39 inches.
  • The average high temperature in July is 61 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low temperature in January is 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

Baranof Island is also the home to Mount Edgecumbe, a 3,200-foot-tall dormant volcano.

Adjacent boroughs and census areas


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 8,835 people, 3,278 households, and 2,219 families residing in the borough. The population density is 1.2/km² (3.1/mi²). There are 3,650 housing units at an average density of 0.5/km² (1.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the borough is 68.50% White, 0.32% Black or African American, 18.57% Native American, 3.79% Asian, 0.35% Pacific Islander, 0.94% from other races, and 7.53% from two or more races. 3.28% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 3,278 households out of which 36.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% are married couples living together, 10.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32.3% are non-families. 24.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 5.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.61 and the average family size is 3.15.

In the borough the population is spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 30.9% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there are 104.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 104.8 males.

The median income for a household in the borough is $51,901, and the median income for a family is $62,361. Males have a median income of $40,037 versus $30,319 for females. The per capita income for the borough is $23,622. 7.8% of the population and 4.2% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 9.2% of those under the age of 18 and 7.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Colleges and universities


  • Served as the capitol of Russian America until 1867, and was the busiest seaport on the west coast of North America.
  • Has the largest incorporated city limits in the United States
  • Louis L'Amour penned Sitka, his fictional account of the events surrounding the United States' purchase of the Alaska Territory from the Russians for $7.2 million in 1867.
  • Novelist James Michener resided at Sitka's Sheldon Jackson College while doing research for epic work, Alaska.
  • Mystery author John Straley described Sitka as " island town where people feel crowded by the land and spread out on the sea."

See also

External links


Missing image
The Pioneer House, one of Sitka's many historic structures, in May 2002.

Regions of Alaska Missing image
Flag of Alaska

Alaskan Bush | Interior | North Slope | Panhandle | South Central | Tanana Valley
Largest cities
Anchorage | Barrow | Bethel | Fairbanks | Homer | Juneau | Kenai | Ketchikan | Kodiak | Kotzebue | Nome | Palmer | Petersburg | Seward | Sitka | Unalaska | Valdez | Wasilla
Boroughs and census areas
Aleutians East | Aleutians West | Anchorage | Bethel | Bristol Bay | Denali | Dillingham | Fairbanks North Star | Haines | Juneau | Kenai Peninsula | Ketchikan Gateway | Kodiak Island | Lake and Peninsula | Matanuska-Susitna | Nome | North Slope | Northwest Arctic | Prince of Wales - Outer Ketchikan | Sitka | Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon | Southeast Fairbanks | Valdez-Cordova | Wade Hampton | Wrangell-Petersburg | Yakutat | Yukon-Koyukuk

de:Sitka hu:Sitka (Alaszka) ru:Ситка


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