Local residents are asked to share stories they may have about the 1869 Battle of Wrangell.
The Wrangell Cooperative Association is teaming up with the Sealaska Heritage Institute to find out more information about the conflict and work on ways to commemorate the event. The partnership is thanks to a $32,000 grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. Zach Jones is with the Heritage Institute and has been in Wrangell the last few days talking with residents and performing research.
“My perspectives are to document this conflict. Why it happened, how it happened and also where, geographically, within the community. And that certainly includes engaging in oral history interviews; field work as it were. Primarily I would expect just with Tlingit Elders since they have an oral culture. So I’m wanting to interview individuals and have been working to connect with people,” he said.
Jones said the conflict originated over what he calls a “domestic dispute” which escalated and caused the military to get involved. It began at a gathering on Christmas night, 1869. One version says a Stikine Tlingit man bit a finger off a white woman who was part of the Army presence at Fort Wrangell. That led to the death of two Stikine men and a white man. Jones said the military also bombarded the village.
“And it was an attack on not just so-called Tlingit warriors, but on the women, the children as well, and the elderly. And this happened in the winter. This altercation went on for two days where there was musket fire exchanged as well as artillery from the soldiers. The Tlingit did try various attempts of flanking and coming over the backside of the hill to knock out the guns, but it was to no avail,” he said.
Jones said eventually the Tlingit negotiated a cease fire. He’s spoken with almost a dozen Tlingit Elders who have given him leads or information about the battle. Jones said anyone with details can contact him through the Wrangell Cooperative Association or the Sealaska Heritage Institute.