THE KIKS.ÁDI SURVIVAL
MARCH OF 1804
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 Hopes 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 Dauenhauers "Beginning Tlingit."
I am just beginning to speak my own language, but I want you to know
that I am aware of my Tlingit heritageand 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 foremostthe 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
The passing of my Kiks.ádi unclesAndrew P. Johnson, Jimmy
Williams and David Howard Sr.signaled the end of the long line
of Kiks.ádi males who knew the Kiks.ádi warriors
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
their own house chief.
It is true that the clan had chosen Katlian (K'alyaan) as war chief
over Shk'oowulyéilbut 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
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 beforethey 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
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 saidrather
it was a survival march through our own backyard to a planned
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
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
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 didnt 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.
to the Battle of Sitka, 1804