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Cruises to Metlakatla

Metlakatla (Photo: Jakub Jan/Shutterstock.com)

About Metlakatla

Located just 45 minutes away from Ketchikan (by ferry), Metlakatla is the largest settlement on the 86,000-acre Annette Island, the only Native America reservation in the state of Alaska. With a population of just 1,600 the town relies primarily on fishing for its economic stability, and on subsistence hunting and fishing for food.

Built in 1887, the town was founded by a group of 823 Canadian Tsimshian Indians who migrated from Prince Rupert, British Columbia when the Anglican missionary who was leading them was ordered to destroy all of their native heritage. He refused, and instead asked the United States for a place they could move to. They were granted Annette Island and the minister, William Duncan, moved with them to what would become Metlakatla. There, the tribe was allowed to continue to practice basket weaving and totem carving -- everything else, including speaking their language and dancing their traditional dances, was forbidden. To this day, the town's feelings about Duncan are mixed, as he both saved elements of their traditional culture but also stamped much of it out.

Metlakatla is a tiny town; you can see most of the attractions on your own, but without a guide you'll miss out on the rich cultural context behind them.

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Why go to Metlakatla?

Pros:

The only Native American reservation in Alaska; the local culture is attempting a revival

Cons:

A tiny town with very little to see or do

Bottom Line:

Perfect for a half-day visit for those interested in First Nations history and culture

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The currency in Metlakatla is the United States dollar, but there are few places to buy anything. The main spot for tourists, the Artist Village, takes credit cards.

Language?

The official language in Metlakatla is English but you might hear some residents speaking words in Sm'algyax, the native Tsimshian language, though it is nearly extinct.


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