1869 Bombardment of Kake Village Sites *PRESS RELEASE* by Mike A. Jackson




June 23, 2011. In the early 1940’s a Kake resident discovered an intact 1869 military ordnance as he was clearing their property; the 30-lb Parrott Shell had not detonated on impact into a rotted tree stump. Since the discovery, the ordnance has been in a Kake residence for safekeeping. In the words of the late Thomas Jackson Sr., ‘There will be a time this history and artillery shell will have to be brought out.’ June 2011 has become that time. The current homeowner has handed over the ordnance to the Organized Village of Kake (OVK), the local federally recognized tribe, to begin the consultation with the United States Department of Defense for the atrocities inflicted upon 6 village sites in the Kake area by the then U.S. territorial army.

In January, 1869, a Kake youth was killed on the bow of a canoe in Sitka by a steamer officer ‘who was doing target practice’ (local Kake elder, 2011). This progressed to the deaths of two non-Native traders by the family of the murdered youth from Kake in atonement according to tribal law. On January 14th & 15th 1869, the U.S. Steamer Saginaw bombarded three Kake village sites and three smaller ‘camp’ sites upon orders from Lieutenant Commander Meade. The S.S. Saginaw proceeded to destroy, burn, and pillage the tribal houses and food caches in the heart of winter, leaving all the families of Kake homeless, no canoes, and without food for the coldest months of the year. Excerpt from 1944 Hanna Hearings of Frank G. Johnson (FGJ): “It was destroyed completely.” Q: And by American Troops? FGJ: “By American Troops. They burned every house and destroyed all the stores that were found.” 35 known Tribal Houses, 2 forts and all the canoes were demolished and burned. Officers went through each site and destroyed caches of food, resulting in additional deaths of children and elders.

On June 21, 2011, the Alaska State Troopers were notified of the ordnance in Kake, triggering an emergency response protocol, prompting the Elmendorf Air Force Base bomb specialists to take immediate action to travel to Kake on June 23, 2011, as well as the arrival of Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Birt to assess the safety status. Due to a death in the community, all actions beyond the June 23 assessment were delayed to later date, when the community can fully concentrate on the ordnance issue and begin full consultation with the Department of Defense. The ordnance was deemed an ‘unknown’ risk by the bomb specialists, and will be left in private care until an expert munitions contractor can come into Kake to diffuse it.

OVK will be working in partnership with Sealaska Heritage Institute to secure the contractor. OVK expresses gratitude to Senators Begich and Murkowski and their hardworking staff, Senator Kookesh and Representative Bill Thomas and their hardworking staff, First Alaskans Institute, Zachary Jones & Rosita Worl with the Sealaska Heritage Institute, and Dr. Steve Langdon, UAA, in assisting OVK to delay any actions of detonations of such valuable piece of history of Kake, and respecting the communities wishes to delay any detonation of the ordnance due to a local death, while keeping the safety of the community as highest priority.

“No compensation or reparations for this injustice was ever sought by the Kakes, nor was there an apology or reparation payments offered by the United States of America.” ~ 1970, local esteemed Kake elder. OVK, along with the leaders and elders of Kake will be facilitating the consultation with the Department of Defense.

Contact Mike A. Jackson at the Organized Village of Kake, 907-785-6471, ext. 124 for further information.

Articles --

"Wondering what the Kake bomb looks like?" Sealaska Heritage Institute News --
SHI Archivist Zachary Jones went to Kake last week to help the Organized Village of Kake (OVK) delay detonation of unexploded ordnance left from the bombardment of Kake in 1869 by the U.S. Steamer Saginaw. Jones took this photo while he was there. SHI will be working with OVK to send a munitions expert to Kake to defuse the device, which has historic value. For more on the Kake bomb story, click here.

Aged bomb in Kake gets official inspection Family heirloom a reminder of clashes with government by Klas Stolpe | Juneau Empire | Jun 24, 2011

Old explosive opens historic wounds in Kake by Jill Burke | Alaska Dispatch | Jun 24, 2011


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