Angoon – Hidden Gem of Southeast Alaska

Village of Angoon, Alaska

Angoon –   57.30N – 134.35W

The Tlingit word for Angoon means “Town on the Portage” or “Isthmus Town”.

 

Angoon is the only permanent settlement on Admiralty Island.  It is a traditional Tlingit community, located on the southwest side at Kootzhahoo Inlet, west of Mitchell Bay, facing Chatham Straight.  It is approximately 60 miles southwest of Juneau, nestled in a scenic area of islands, narrow channels, estuaries and lagoons.  It is only accessible by float plane or boat.  High winds can delay access at any time of the year, but particularly in winter.  Scheduled and charter float plane services are available.  There is also a deep draft dock, small boat harbor, and a State owned ferry terminal.  Generally there is monthly barge service available as well.

Admiralty Island National Monument embraces nearly a million acres of old growth rainforest, alpine tundra, and rugged coastline.  This area offers unrivaled opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation in Southeast Alaska.  It is also the home of the Kootznoowoo Tlingit tribe. Kootznoowoo means “fortress of bears.” Admiralty Island is home to the highest concentration of brown bears in the world; more than all the Lower 48 states combined.  However, Admiralty offers much more to visitors and residents alike.  Spectacular runs of wild salmon fill the island’s creeks each summer, while remote mountain lakes offer the ultimate in wilderness fishing.

Angoon has a rich cultural heritage, which should be understood, appreciated and respected.

From the 1700s to the mid-1800s, fur trading was the major money-making activity in the area. In 1878, the Northwest Trading Company established a trading post and whaling station on nearby Killisnoo Island and villagers were employed to hunt whales. Whaling, a BIA school and a Russian Orthodox Church attracted many Tlingits to Killisnoo. In 1882, a whaling vessel’s harpoon charge accidentally misfired and exploded, killing a Native crewmember – a Tlingit shaman, or medicine man.

Villagers demanded payment of 200 blankets to the man’s family, as was customary. The Northwest Trading Co. felt threatened and sought assistance from the U.S. Navy at Sitka.

The village and a summer camp were subsequently shelled and destroyed by the Navy Cutter U.S.S. Corwin. Native accounts of the attack claim six children died by smoke inhalation. In 1973, Angoon won a $90,000 out-of-court settlement from the Federal government for the 1882 bombardment. Whaling did not last long, and the company switched to herring processing. During this time, many Tlingits moved to Killisnoo for employment at the plant. In 1928, Killisnoo was destroyed by fire, and many Tlingits returned to Angoon.

Today, the residents of Angoon continue to rely on the subsistence lifestyle of harvesting and gathering food.  Most of the economy is based upon commercial fishing – 67 residents hold commercial fishing permits.  There are approximately 540 residents, one general store, and a lodge.  Possession of alcohol is banned in the community.  There are no restaurants or gift shops – in fact, few amenities for visitors as tourism is not a priority.  Most of the local economy is based upon fishing.  The Chatham School District central office is in Angoon and is the primary employer.  Occasional logging jobs offer limited, temporary employment.

 

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