At 2 PM the Tlingit community held a Mourning and Reconciliation ceremony at the base of Noow Tlein, (Castle Hill) On the top of the hill was the “Reenactment” of the transfer with the Russian flag lowered and the US flag raised. Of course, Tlingit people were not consulted and, as one friend says, “The land as sold out from under us.” The gathering at the base of the hill is getting bigger every year and is part of the process of decolonization.
While there was no conflict among the participants of the two ceremonies that I witnessed, there was certainly an acoustic conflict. At times the celebratory and ceremonial gunfire from the top of the hill made the speakers talking into a bull horn at the bottom hard to hear. When the 9th Army band plays the national anthem, it is loud enough to interfere with our ability to hear the mourning ceremony but the Alaska Flag Song is played soft enough that the Tlingit singing and drumming cut right through.
I am told that while I was on the bridge taking photos a uniformed State Park employee approached the group and told them that next year they would need a permit for the gathering. It seems wrong to me that Tlingit would need a permit to drum and sing on Noow Tlein.
One friend asked me, the next day, why I was at the bottom of the hill and not the top. I do celebrate Alaska Day. I love the parade, the bagpipes, the food the historical society presentation and the general party. For me, it is not one or the other, it can be both. But when it comes to the transfer ceremony it just seems right to stand with my Tlingit neighbors in an attempt to give a more balanced view of history. This week was book-ended by Indigenous Peoples’ (Columbus) Day on Monday and Reconciliation (Alaska) Day on Friday. It was a week for thought and reflection as well as having a party.
On the top of the hill, as seen from the bottom, the Transfer Ceremony continues.