Friday, July 3, 2015

Kake War of 1869

Watching the Whales

From Tenakee Springs we exited Tenakee Inlet and continued south along Chatham Strait.  Several whales were seen just outside Whitewater Bay near the Native village of Angoon.  We slowed our progress hoping to capture images of the activity.  
Whale Sighting
After our encounter with the whales, we turned west into Frederick Sound then south along Keku Strait where we anchored off the village of Kake, a predominately Tlingit community.  The name Kake is derived from the Tlingit word keix, meaning the mouth of dawn or the opening of daylight.  It was in this area that tensions between Kake residents and white settlers reached a climax following the purchase of Alaska.  The U.S. Navy sent the gunboat USS Saginaw to shell several villages and destroy homes, boats, and stored food supplies; the incident became known as the Kake War of 1869.  The trouble began when Tlingit’s from Kake were visiting Sitka and were killed by a U.S. soldier, the Army failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing or offer compensation.  The Kake Tlingit’s, adhering to Klingit law, killed two non-Native trappers south of Sitka.  

The Village of Kake
The Kake area villages that were destroyed were never rebuilt but later many of the Tlinkit's relocated and settled at the present site of Kake in 1890.  A government school and store were constructed and missionaries soon followed.  A cannery was built at Kake around 1912 and operated until 1977.  The Keku Cannery was named in 1997 as a National Historic Landmark and is being stabilized in hopes of becoming a tourist destination.  
Historic Keku Cannery
The complex includes 18 buildings out of approximately 21 that were built by the cannery’s owners.  Positions of responsibility were given to white men, lower-level menial tasks to immigrants from China and elsewhere, while the Tlinket’s were employed to catch the fish.  
Historic Keku Cannery
The salmon fishery began to decline and the cannery closed in 1946.  A Native corporation purchased the cannery in 1949 but struggled due to the decline in fish and the eventual ban on the use of fish traps, the Keku Cannery permanently closed in 1977. 
Kake Totem
Today, the Tlingit’s subsistence style living from fishing and logging remains the cornerstone of the community along with a cold storage plant that opened in the mid-1990’s.  Kake is best known by tourists for its 132.5 foot Totem Pole, one of the tallest in Alaska.  This one-piece totem was carved by the Chilkat’s in 1967 for Alaska’s centennial.  Kake is also known as a departure point for the Tebenkof Bay
Kake Totem Pole
Wilderness, a system of hundreds of islands, inner bays, and coves.

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