The Port of Angoon is located on the western coast of Admiralty Island in Southeastern Alaska just west of British Columbia in Canada. Lying on the southwest shores of Kootznahoo Inlet, the Port of Angoon is some 84 nautical miles south of the Port of Juneau and 165 nautical miles (41 miles or about 66 kilometers as the crow flies) northeast of the Port of Sitka. In the Tlingit language, Aangoon means "isthmus town."
The Port of Angoon is the only permanent settlement on Admiralty Island, and the Tlingit found its relatively less rainy climate an important reason for locating there. Today, some 600 residents call the Port of Angoon home, and its native heritage is a defining characteristic of the town. Despite its favorable climate for this area of Alaska, strong winter winds sometimes make aircraft landings difficult, and the Port of Angoon is accessible only by boat or plane.
The Kootznoowo (meaning "fortress of bears") Tlingit tribe has made Admiralty Island and what would become the Port of Angoon their home for more than a thousand years. During the Russian period that lasted from the 1700s to the middle of the 1800s, fur trading was the primary business for the future Port of Angoon.
In 1867, Alaska was bought by the United States. In 1878, the Northwest Trading Company employed the native population to hunt whales based from their trading post and whaling station on nearby Killisnoo Island, a small island about 3 kilometers (2 miles) away. Many Tlingits from the Port of Angoon moved to Killisnoo to find whaling jobs and to attend the Bureau of Indian Affairs school and Russian Orthodox Church located there.
The Northwest Trading Company started processing herring soon after it was established, and many Kootznoowo Tlingits moved to Killisnoo to work at the plant, which continued to operate until 1928 when the town was destroyed by a fire. At that time, the Tlingits moved back to the Port of Angoon, and a post office was established there. In 1963, the City of Angoon was formed.
In October 1882, a harpoon accidentally misfired on a whaling vessel in the Port of Angoon and killed a Tlingit shaman who was a crew member on the vessel. In response to this event, a group of Tlingits took hostages and items from the Northwest Trading Company's trading post near the Port of Angoon, demanding 200 blankets for the man's family, a custom among the Tlingits.
The trading company called for help from the United States Navy based in Sitka. The Thomas Corwin, under the Command of E.C. Meriman, freed the hostages and then shelled and burned the Port of Angoon village to the ground. Residents reported the deaths of six children. A century later, the US government acknowledged that the tragedy never should have happened. The Port of Angoon won a $90 thousand settlement from the federal government in 1973.
Today, the federally-recognized tribe makes up more than 85% of the population of the Port of Angoon. The village economy is based on subsistence and commercial fishing and fish processing. Almost 60 residents of the Port of Angoon have commercial fishing permits, and there is a new shellfish farm located in the Port of Angoon. The most important natural resources for the locals are deer, bear, salmon, geese, halibut, shellfish, and berries. In 2000, the US census reported a total of 184 occupied housing units in the Port of Angoon. Most of the vacant housing units are used for summer homes. That census reported that almost 30% of the residents of the Port of Angoon lived below poverty level.
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