Do you enjoy fishing or hunting? How about spending time hiking through a lush rainforest? If you answered yes to either of these questions, Sitka, Alaska, is a perfect place for you to explore.

Sitka, Alaska, is also for you if you prefer to explore historical and cultural sites. Located on the west shore of Baranof Island, Sitka sits in the shadow of Mount Edgecumbe. Sitka is the only inside passage city that faces the Pacific Ocean.

When my husband and I arrived in Sitka, we wanted to learn about its rich history. So, we took a scenic tour of the city. Our guide, Heen Dei, which means Spring Water, was born and raised in Sitka. His family has lived in Sitka for several generations.

During our time together, Heen Dei shared the history of the city. He also included the history and traditions of the Tlingit people. As we drove around the island, Heen Dei shared several reasons he loved living in Sitka.

Sitka has a rich history, which began with the Tlingit people, who were the original inhabitant of the island. As you stroll around the Sitka National Park, you can observe a collection of totem pools craved by Tlingit artists.

While the city’s current name is Sitka, based on the Tlingit word Sheet’ka, it was formerly known as New Archangel. In 1799 the Russian settlers arrived and named the area Fort of Archangel Michael.

After several battles with the Tlingit, the Russians won a decisive victory in the Battle of Sitka in 1804. As a result, the city was renamed New Archangel and became Russian America’s capital. Over the next 60 years, New Archangel became the largest permanent settlement in the region.

The Russian influence is still present in present-day Sitka. Touring the city, you can visit the Russian Bishop’s House and the Cathedral of Saint Michael. In 1867, Sitka was the site for the transfer ceremony for the Alaska purchase. Today Sitka is a vibrant community of about 8,500 individuals.

As my husband and I strolled the downtown area after our tour, I thought about the leadership lessons I learned from Heen Dei. His goal was to create a world-class experience for his customers. During our time together, our guide modeled:

  • Passion for the beauty of the island
  • Commitment to educating visitors on the rich history of Sitka and the Tlingit people
  • Creativity by integrating native traditions into the tour

While the purpose of the tour was to learn about the history of Sitka, Heen Dei ensured we understood the importance of tradition in the lives of residents.

As a leader, your passion, commitment, and creativity will inspire others.

“With increasing passion comes increasing creativity to reach people.”

-Craig Groeschel

Like Heen Dei, leaders should create world-class experiences for their team members and customers.

Are you creating a world-class experience for your customers?



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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.