Metlakatla, Alaska

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Metlakatla (pronounced /ˌmɛtləˈkætlə/) is a census-designated place (CDP) on Annette Island in Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area, Alaska, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 1,375.



Metlakatla is from Maxłakxaała, a Tsimshian word meaning "Salt Water Passage." Metlakatla was named after another village of the same name ("Old Metlakatla") in British Columbia, which is on Metlakatla Pass, near Prince Rupert. In a more ancient time, it was a Tlingit hunting ground known as "Taquan". The Tsimshians were granted permission to own the land by Chief Johnson of the Tlinget tribe.

In 1886, William Duncan, an English tannery employee and lay minister of the Anglican Church, had a doctrinal dispute with the Church authorities in Metlakatla, B.C.. He and a devoted group of Tsimshian followers decided to leave Metlakatla. Duncan went to Washington, D.C., in the United States and asked the U.S. government to give his group land in Alaska. The U.S. gave them Annette Island. Metlakatla was selected[clarification needed] by an appointed search committee, for its calm bay, gently sloped beaches, and nearby waterfall[citation needed].

In 1887 the group arrived on the island and built a settlement in the Port Chester area of the island. The town was laid out in a neat grid pattern and contained a church, a school, a tannery, and a sawmill. They named the town New Metlakatla, after the town they had left behind, but later dropped the "New". in 1888, William Duncan returned to Washington and lobbied the U.S. Congress for an Indian reservation on Annette Island. Although the reservation system had not been used in Alaska, this request was granted in 1891. Annette Island and its surrounding islands today comprise the only Indian reservation in Alaska. Duncan remained at Metlakatla until his death in 1918.

During World War II a large airfield was built on Annette Island. This airfield became the first post for a Canadian military unit to be stationed on US soil. The 115th Fighter Squadron RCAF and followed by the 118th Fighter Squadron RCAF flying Curtiss 87A Kittyhawks. After the war it became a United States Coast Guard search and rescue base. Until recently, it was the largest airfield in Alaska. This airfield served the area commercially until the 1970s when the new Ketchikan Airport was built at Gravina Island in the Inside Passage.

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