Community Origins

After moving to "Old Metlakatla," hostilities between Mr. Duncan and the Church he gave allegiance to increased and became unbearable. He sought help from the United States, meeting with President Grover Cleveland in Washington. President Cleveland recognized the right of aboriginal Indians to occupy land within their aboriginal region. He also recognized that the purchase of Alaska by the U.S. government did not extinguish this right and informed Mr. Duncan that he could choose a group of Alaskan islands for his community's new home.

A group of men was selected by Mr. Duncan to seek out new land for immediate ocfcupation. This small group of men traveled by canoe into the waters of the United States. They eventually came upon Annette Island and were amazed at its majestic beauty, sheltered bays, gently sloping beaches, nearby waterfall and abundance of fish available to feed the multitudes. Notice was conveyed to Mr. Duncan that a more-than-adequate location had been found for settlement. On August 7, 1887, Duncan and 826 Tsimshians proclaimed the birth of "New Metlakatla" on Annette Islands in Southeast Alaska. August 7 is still celebrated every year as "Founders' Day," a day to remember the courage and foresight of the original pioneers who made the new land their home.

Mr. Duncan, being an individual of many talents, drew up plans for streets, homes, and public buildings. He designed his own home, the schools, and all other public buildings. Only two years after arriving on Annette Island, the first permanent public building, which had been constructed by the skills of Tsimshian workers, was dedicated. The building housed the day school and church. Mr. Duncan continued teaching the Tsimshians everything he knew. If there was something he did not know how to do, for example, make soap, he would go away and find a place to learn how to do it, come back and teach the people the proper method. He found that the Tsimshians were fast learners and could perfectly duplicate whatever was taught to them, from carpentry to music. Mr. Duncan remained in charge of his mission until his death in 1918.

After Duncan's death, the town's government took over the management of community, economic, and social affairs. Today, Metlakatla is an incorporated entity officially named "Metlakatla Indian Community." It is governed by a 12-member tribal council, mayor, secretary, and treasurer. The council and executives are responsible for the welfare of Metlakatla's people.

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