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The Tlingit Indians were a tribe of natives that ranged from the Canadian border to Yakutat in Southeast Alaska. When Baranov landed at the site of St. Michael (present day Sitka) he was met by the Tlingit Indians that lived there. The tribe was far more advanced than the Aleuts and other Alaska Natives. They lived in well built wooden houses, built wooden boats and canoes to fish and hunt out of, they made slaves out of their wartime captives, carved totem poles in honor of their ancestors, and worshipped numerous bird and animal gods.

They were wealthy and well organized. They were organized so much so that in June of 1802 they attacked the garrison at St. Michael while most of the men were off hunting. They carried off the women as slaves after killing and beheading the remaining men. Eighteen Aleut women, a few Aleut men and three Russian men escaped being killed by hiding in the woods until the Tlingits left.

The survivors were picked up by a passing British ship and were taken to Kodiak and ransomed to Baranov for 10,000 rubles worth of fur pelts. This was also the first time that Baranov had herd of the massacre at St. Michaels.

In 1803 Baranov was aching for revenge on the Tlingits for the attack on St. Michael but he lacked the needed weapons to carry out an attack of his own. He worked out a deal with a Captain Joe O'cain for muskets and cannons he had from the American Revolution. As Baranov did not have enough otter pelts to pay for the weapons he worked out a deal with O'cain to provide him with Aleut hunters that would go with him to the sea otter area on the California coast. Any pelts would be split between the two. Baron, in watching out for the Aleuts, put in a provision that they would be paid $2.50 for each otter they took.

Baranov took possession of the weapons and in the spring of 1804 he set sail for Sitka with 120 men in four small ships and 800 Aleuts in kayaks. Months later they arrived at Sitka and found a Russian fighting ship already there. It was the Neva, which had called at Kodiak and heard about his pending attack and had come to assist him in retaking Sitka.

The Aleuts towed the Neva into position and shelling of the Tlingit stronghold commenced. It went on for day after day with very little results. Baranov tired of waiting and led a force of Aleuts ashore in hopes of taking the village by storm. The Tlingits routed the small force and wounded Baranov in the fight.

After many nights of chanting by a Tlingit medicine man, a silence fell over the harbor. Leaving Baranov little but ruins and a few corpses, the Tlingits had abandoned Sitka and disappeared into the night.

The Tlingits eventually accepted the Russian settlers and lived in relative peace with them.

There is an excellent replica of a Tlingit Community House and 13 Totem Poles located at Totem Bight Totem Park, 9.9 miles North of Ketchikan.


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