Sitka Tribe, NPS continue negotiating future park management

Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) began co-managing interpretation at the Sitka National Historical Park last year. The national park is part of the ancestral lands of the Kiks.ádi and the site of the fort that impeded Russian forces for four days during the Battle of Sitka in 1804. (KCAW file photo)

There’s uncertainty over whether Sitka’s tribe will lead interpretation at Sitka National Historical Park next year. The National Park Service and Sitka Tribe of Alaska say they’re negotiating terms of a new Annual Funding Agreement after the federal government opted not to renew the contract for 2020.

The tribe began co-managing interpretation at the small, historic park last year. The national park is part of the ancestral lands of the Kiks.ádi and the site of the fort that impeded Russian forces for four days during the Battle of Sitka in 1804.

It was precedent-setting: this was the first time a sovereign tribal government was leading interpretation and educational services at a national park.

But last month, Sitka Tribe announced that the park service wasn’t renewing the contract and tribal tour leaders may not return next year. The release said the tribe had been given just four days to vacate and had to remove its property from the park.

Park Superintendent Mary Miller confirmed in a statement that the contract had expired near the end of September. She said that after a year-and-a-half operating under the agreement, the national park wanted to “take the opportunity to review things with STA and adjust if and where necessary.”

Both say talks are ongoing with neither willing to comment further until the two parties reach common ground. 

If no agreement is reached, Sitka National Historical Park’s tours and educational materials could revert back to being designed and managed by National Park Service interpretive rangers.