Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Russians at Sitka -- 7/15/2015

What a great surprise to see the pleasure craft Outbound on the main dock as we walk into the town of Sitka.  We had communicated on VHF a few times in previous anchorages and also as we approached Sergius Narrows a few days ago.  Now we get the chance to meet Jon and Cam face to face and have a pleasant visit.  

The Sitka Historical Museum is our sightseeing activity for today; however we are fortunate to have many different kinds of fishing vessels right before our eyes as we walk from 'our zip code' of the marina along the main dock into town.

The crew in the photo below tell me they are not mending their nets, they are enhancing them....

Herb's and my interest in the early history of Sitka is a reason why we make this cruise here, and the museum delights us with many photos, artifacts and recorded stories.  The Russians first came to Sitka in 1799 in search of furs and established a colony in 1804.  Their religion soon followed.

Fortunes were made in furs as the tough Siberian fur hunters established the Russian hold on Alaska.  These promyshlennikii advanced eastward along the Aleutian Island chain and virtually enslaved the Aleuts to hunt the sea otter and other fur-bearing animals.

The promyshlennikii explained away their cruelty and lawless living with the Russian saying, "God is on high and the Tsar is far away."

St. Yakov (Jacob)Netsvetov became the first Russian Orthodox priest of Alaskan native heritage in 1828.  He served churches in the Aleutians and was later assigned as a missionary to the Aleuts, then in the lower Yukon.  His life was typical of the "creoles" of Russian America, children of mixed Russian and Native households, who were readily integrated into the everyday life of Russia's distant outpost.

The Russian Orthodox Church of America canonized Father Netsvetov to celebrate his unique role as the first Alaskan native to bring the Gospel to Alaska.

St. Michael’s Cathedral was built in 1844, destroyed by fire in 1966, rebuilt.  Many icons and religious objects were salvaged and are in the rebuilt structure.

Fr. Ivan Veniaminov was the true father of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska, being a missionary to the Aleuts,  teaching carpentry, blacksmithing, masonry, and the Word of God.

As a Priest to Sitka, he learned the language and customs of the Tlingit, never rushing to make converts, but baptizing only those who truly accepted the religion.

He became the Bishop of Alaska, and was renamed Bishop Innocent.  He brought other missionaries, built a seminary and established St. Michael’s Cathedral.

St. Michael's Cathedral

In the afternoon Herb and I walk through more of the town, where we see a restoration of the Bishop's House, following its being burned.  It was discovered during the rebuilding that a plant known to the Tlingit as saxt or Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridum) had been placed between the double floorboards.  It was known to have medicinal properties and thought to ward off evil.

St. Gregory Catholic Church
Legends are told about the origin of the beautiful stained glass window at the front of St. Peter's by the Sea Episcopal Church, largely because it contains a Star of David, but no one really knows the truth.

St. Peter's by the Sea Episcopal Church

The wonderful days with Ray, Jocelyn and Brenna will soon be in our memories and photos, as we bid them safe travel south.

Wine and Chocolate
Willie of Willie's Tug,
   and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
   Wednesday, July 15, 2015

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