History of Metlakatla, Alaska

Metlakatla means "saltwater channel passage," and was founded by a group of Canadian Tsimshians who migrated from Prince Rupert, British Columbia in 1887 seeking religious freedom. They were led by a Scottish lay priest in the Anglican Church (Church of England), Reverend William Duncan, who had begun his missionary work with the Tsimshians at Fort Simpson, B.C., in 1857. Rev. Duncan traveled to Washington D.C. around 1886 to personally request land from President Grover Cleveland for the Tsimshians. The Island was selected by a local search committee, and by 1890, there were 823 residents. Congress declared Annette Island a federal Indian reservation in 1891. Residents built a church, a school, a sawmill and a cannery, and constructed homes in an orderly grid pattern. Duncan continued to inspire and lead his followers until his death in 1918. In 1927, the community built a hydroelectric plant. During World War II, the U.S. Army constructed a large air base a few miles from town, which was later used for commercial amphibian flights to Ketchikan. The U.S. Coast Guard also maintained a base on the Island until 1976. The Annette Island Reserve remains the only federal reservation for indigenous peoples in Alaska.


William Duncan 1887



Recent News

In the morning of January 30, 2009, the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Lituya broke free from it's moorage at the pier in Metlakatla, Alaska during a winter storm with strong winds. Occuring around 1:00am, no one was on board and the ship ran aground about a mile north of the moorage.

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