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Reprinted with permission from Will the Time Ever Come? A Tlingit Sourcebook

While Andy Hope is interested in the history of clan migrations and Harold Jacobs in the history of Angoon clans and their possessions, Herb Hope sharpens his focus in this paper on the history of just one event, albeit a landmark one: The Battle of 1804 between the Russians and Kik.sádi at Sitka. And what an extraordinary and dramatic story it is, especially the long, survival march of the Kiks.ádi to Point Craven after withdrawing from their fort at Indian River. Again, the clan perspective is critical to the telling of the story. The survival march is Kiks.ádi history, a history not revealed in the written sources or even well understood by other clans. There are even slightly different versions of the event among Kiks.ádi house groups. In recent years, Herb Hope’s mission has been to evaluate the oral history he learned as a boy about the Battle of 1804 by comparing it to other oral and written historical sources. In some places the stories are complementary and in other places conflicting. His findings spurred Mr. Hope to "ground truth" the story of the Kiks.ádi Survival March by re-tracing the route(s) of the marchers across Baranof Island. Indeed it became a personal quest for him, which he pursued with dogged determination despite limited funds and opposition from some quarters. In
1994, when the first part of this paper was written, Mr. Hope was still not satisfied that he had found the trail, but in 1996 he pursued a coastal route around the bays of Northwest Baranof Island and succeeded in reaching Point Craven, where the potential remains of the Kiks.ádi fort site were found and documented by archeologists. He was then satisfied that he had found the trail, but his quest continues to inspire others interested in making Tlingit history more visible and respected.

Cháank'i yóo xat duwásaakw.
Stoonookw yóo xat duwásaakw.
Yéil áyá xát.
Kiks.ádi áyá xát.
Sheet'ká Kwáan áyá xát.
X'aaká Hít xat sitee.
Kaagwaantaan yádi áyá xát.

That Tlingit greeting came to you through the courtesy of Nora and Richard Dauenhauer’s "Beginning Tlingit." I am just beginning to speak my own language, but I want you to know that I am aware of my Tlingit heritage—and how it has shaped my life. I want you to know that I am proud of it.

Thank you for attending this very important conference.

I am here to tell you of my efforts to retrace the route of the Sitka Kiks.ádi Survival March of 1804, an important tribal event that took place 189 years ago.

To do that I must give you some background details.

First, and foremost—the story of the Battle of Sitka of 1804 has never been told by the people most directly affected by that great battle, the Sitka Kiks.ádi people.

As brother Marks said yesterday, we, as a people, tend to shy away from the very sensitive issues. But, now that must be weighed against the loss of the Kiks.ádi side of the story for all time. It is a great story. It is a story that future generations of Tlingit people must hear.

The passing of my Kiks.ádi uncles—Andrew P. Johnson, Jimmy Williams and David Howard Sr.—signaled the end of the long line of Kiks.ádi males who knew the Kiks.ádi warrior’s side of this battle.

Of my generation I believe that I am the last of the male members who heard this story as told to me by my uncles.

During the trapping seasons of 1951 and 1953 I had occasion to go fur trapping with my father, Andrew Hope, and my uncle, David Howard Sr. During the long winter nights I heard the story again and again.

This accounting then becomes all the more important because, if it is not told in public today, it may be lost for all time. Then only the slanted Russian version would survive.

The Sitka Kiks.ádi Survival March Story is a story of Tlingit courage, bravery, dedication, loyalty, honor and endurance in defense of the Kiks.ádi homeland.

It is a pleasure to offer this accounting of that great story.

We do not purposely intend to offend anyone as we tell our story but we do intend to tell the story as it had been handed down through the years. It is important to know what the Sitka Kiks.ádi thought before, during and after that great battle, 189 years ago, for it greatly influenced their behavior during the course of that battle.

According to my uncles, the Kiks.ádi thought that the Great Alliance of 1802 was still in effect. For it was the alliance that made possible the victory over the Russians in Fort Saint Michael in 1802. That is the reason for the many references to those allies in this story.

The shaman were asked time and time again:

"Is anyone coming to join us?"

"Are the war canoes on the way to join us?"

One more disclaimer before we go on with the story. This story is the Point House version of that great battle. It is but one of the six Kiks.adi tribal houses that took part in this battle. The six house groups were:
1) The House on the Point
2) Clay House
3) Strong House
4) Herring House
5) Steel House
6) House Inside the Fort

It is important to remember that each house group fought as a military unit under
their own house chief.

It is true that the clan had chosen Katlian (K'alyaan) as war chief over Shk'oowulyéil—but each house was an independent military unit and saw the battle from that perspective.

This accounting is dedicated to the memory of the brave warriors who fought this battle and to the non-combatant old men and women, infants and children who were the casualties of this major confrontation between the Tlingit Indians and the European intruders who were invading their lands.

The loss of life was extremely heavy. Warriors and civilians alike suffered losses to cannon fire for the first time in their history.

We salute them as we remember them.

The idea of this recounting started innocently enough.

In 1987 I attended the Alaska Native Brotherhood Convention in Sitka and, as usual, I went to attend the luncheon that is always hosted by the Sitka Kiks.ádi, as the original Sitka people, to welcome the Convention. But this year was different, there were no male Kiks.ádi elders to welcome the ANB and ANS delegates to Sitka and to briefly speak of our clan leaders and history.

Instead, several female speakers rose to speak in a manner I had never heard before—they were apologizing for our part in the war of 1804. They even admitted to our people killing the young infants before retreating into the hills. In short they were telling the Russian version of the story.

I rose to object and said,

When we speak of our history we must speak with pride, for only we know the true story of our participation in the War of 1804. We do not need to quote anything the Russians had to say about the battle.

Another thing, the Sitka Kiks.ádi retreat from Fort Shís'gi Noow was not a headline military retreat as you have just said—rather it was a survival march through our own backyard to a planned destination.

The story you have just told sounds like the story only a very disapproving Presbyterian Minister would tell.

Maybe it is time for us to reenact the Sitka Kiks.ádi Survival March so we can properly tell our story with pride and honor.

I sat down to a strong round of applause.

And so began my efforts to reenact the Kiks.ádi Survival March of 1804.

I began by questioning all the elders who would listen to me. I asked, "What was the route your house group took during the Survival March?"

I asked many people but no one could give me a specific answer.

I went out and bought all the nautical charts and topographical maps of the north end of Baranof Island and studied them carefully. When they did not give enough detail about the interior of the island, I located all the aerial photos I could find of the entire north end of Baranof Island.

I traced all possible routes and combinations of routes from Sitka to Hanus Bay and began to eliminate them one by one.

I wrote letters to everyone I could think of who might know something about the Survival March. I didn’t really expect anyone to answer, and I was right. I did not receive a single response.

I actively solicited support for an effort I intended to launch in September of 1988. Twelve people, including several ladies, said they would participate in all or part of the effort.

I read all the books I could get my hands on concerning the history of events leading to the Battle of Sitka of 1804.

Prelude to the Battle of Sitka, 1804