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The Kiks.ádi Survival March of 1804

Baranof sent many envoys to meet with the Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi as he attempted to break the blockade of Sitka. One such event is told by Cyrus Peck, Sr.: "The Russians could speak fluent Tlingit. When the Kiks.ádi blockade of Peril Straits began to hurt the Russian fur trade, Baranof sent a special envoy to Chief Katlian at Chaatlk'aanoow near Point Craven."

The special envoy was intercepted down by False Island by the Kiks.ádi canoes. The envoy said he had a special message from Baranof to War Chief Katlian. The Kiks.ádi canoes escorted him to Chaatlk'aanoow.

The envoy’s canoe waited off shore to be greeted as he knew Tlingit custom required him to do. He waited and waited, but no one came forward to greet him, or to invite him ashore.

Chief Katlian refused to greet the envoy because he considered the envoy to be below his rank and station as War Chief of the Kiks.ádi people. He considered himself to be the equal of Baranof. So after a suitable delay he sent a messenger to tell the envoy, "You are below the rank of Katlian and he cannot greet you in person."

The envoy was deeply offended and loudly proclaimed his Russian and European nobility titles, but Katlian still refused to greet him.

After drifting offshore for a while longer the special envoy came ashore by himself. He walked over to the Chief Katlian’s house and spoke in a loud voice, saying,

Oh, great Katlian!
Oh, great Katlian!
Mighty War Chief of the Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi people.
The Lord Baranof has dispatched me to carry his message to you, oh great chief Katlian.
Your life and your presence is like unto the sunshine!
Your life and your presence is like unto the sunshine!
Where you are, there is the bright sunshine!
Without you there is no sunshine!
Sheet'ká is now a land without sunshine!.
Sheet'ká is now a land without sunshine!
The great Baranof sends you this personal message:
Oh, great Katlian!

Oh, great Katlian!

Return with your proud people to you ancient homeland.
Return to Sheet'ká.
Come home to Sheet'ká.
Let the sunshine return to Sheet'ká.
Let us live in peace!
Let peace return to our people!
Let us live in the sunshine!
Bring the sunshine back to Sheet'ká!
Bring your people back home to Sheet'ká!

So says the great Baranof.

War Chief Katlian called a council meeting of the house chiefs and their shaman as required by tradition. One of the older chiefs spoke in favor of accepting the offer, but he was quickly shouted down by the younger chiefs who said, "The entire Tlingit nation will laugh at us if we return to Sheet'ká at the invitation of Anooshee. They will say we have surrendered and are now the willing slaves of the Anooshee! It is not the place of the Anooshee to invite the Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi back home to Sheet'ká. We will return when the time is right."

The shaman and the house chiefs voted to reject the offer.

Chief Katlian appointed one of his young nephews to deliver his message to the envoy.

As per his instructions the young nephew stopped some distance away from the special envoy and called in a loud voice:

The War Chief Katlian makes this reply:

The sun rises each morning in the east to bring warmth to the people and animals of this earth,
but each evening it sets in the west to mark the end of the day.
The Sun does not stay up in the sky forever.
There is a season for the moon.
There is a season for the stars.
For now the sun has set in Sheet'ká and it is the season of the moon and stars.
The sun will return to Sheet'ká when the time is right.
We await the proper time.
Let it be known that it is not the place of the Anooshee to invite the proud Kiks.ádi people to return to their ancient homeland. Sheet'ka still belongs to the Kiks.ádi. We will return to our ancient homeland when we say that the time is right. For now we will remain here in Chaatlk'aanoow. Chaatlk'aanoow has been good to us.
We will not leave Chaatlk'aanoow.
We will not end the blockade.
Now go!

Give War Chief Katlian’s answer to your Lord Baranof who lives in the land without sunshine.

The special envoy stepped back aboard his canoe and departed for Sitka.

Each year for many years Baranof sent special envoys to ask the Kiks.ádi to return home. Each time the Kiks.ádi refused.

One spring morning the Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi appeared outside of Nakwasina sound near the "Beehive" and pulled their canoes ashore on the gravel beach just to the west of the Beehive and set up a new village camp.

A year or two later they landed back in Sheet'ká and immediately began to build their new winter quarters right up against the Russian stockade. They also announced to the Russians, "The mountains around Sitka belong to the Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi. No Russians will be allowed to hunt for deer or bear on those mountains while the Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi are here. Should any Russian or Aleut attempt to hunt on those hills they will do so at their own peril. When you need game you shall send a message to Chief Katlian who will assign hunters to go after the game.

"The hunters will exchange the game for Russian trade items."

The Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi had returned to their ancient homeland!

And so, as far as the Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi people are concerned, the Battle of Sitka of 1804 came to an end many, many years after the shooting stopped. It ended when their canoes again touched the beaches of Sheet'ká and they stepped ashore.

They did not know it then, but the Sitka Kiks.ádi people were to be the last of the Tlingit people ever to send its warriors into a full-scale battle against the white intruders from Europe.

No other Tlingit tribe or clan ever mounted such a defense of their homeland again.

The determined resistance of the Sitka Kiks.ádi helped stem the tide of Russian expansion in the Pacific Northwest. It forever changed the course of history in southeast Alaska.

However the Russians may have viewed the battle at that time and however history may view that battle today, at that time the Battle of Sitka of 1804 clearly showed the rest of the world that the Russian forces in Alaska were too weak to conquer the Tlingit people. It also showed them that the Tlingit people would fight to defend their homeland.

Today Baranof is long gone. Only a distant memory of him remains.

Lisianski and the Neva are gone.

The Anooshee roughnecks are gone.

The four hundred Aleut hunters are gone.

To this day the Sheet'ká Kiks.ádi people still live in their ancient homeland.

War Chief Katlian, Shaman Stoonookw, House Chief Skawu Yéil and all the other participants in this great battle are still recalled when the Sitka Kiks.ádi come together to celebrate the events in their lives.

The Kiks.ádi and the Kiks.ádi yatx'i are still a strong part of the Sheet'ká tribal structure.

But one thing has changed—Sheet'ká is now called "Sitka."