On May 7, Congress completed its review of an Annual Funding Agreement (“AFA”) under which STA now officially provides visitor services for Sitka National Historical Park. This agreement underscores our close government to government relationship between the NPS and STA as well as embraces the spirit of the Department of Interior Secretarial Priority No. 4, “Ensuring tribal sovereignty means something.”
The new agreement funds STA to hire park interpreters and other visitor service positions working under the guidance of the park’s Division of Interpretation and Education. STA has hired eight staff members who are providing tours and interpretive talks at the Totem unit and the Russian Bishop’s House, managing visitor services for those two park sites, and delivering education services on behalf of the park for Sitka’s schools.
“We are excited to begin this new and significant partnership,” said park Superintendent David Elkowitz. “Our team put in a huge effort with planning, orientation and training to help STA’s employees hit the ground running. We believe this is the most comprehensive such agreement in NPS history.”
For STA, a federally-recognized tribal government, the May 7 kick-off of the AFA marks the culmination of several years of planning and discussions with the NPS.
“We are so pleased to see the vision of our Elders established by the Tribal Council under our former chairman, Woody Widmark, come to fruition,” said STA General Manager Lisa Gassman. “Under the guidance of our current chairman Kathy Hope Erickson and STA Tribal Council, we now have tribal employees providing tours and other services to visitors on what is historically tribal land. This is an exciting step for STA and our citizens.”
STA employees, wearing traditional red and black colors and the STA seal, will provide tours, information and assistance throughout the summer visitor season and provide park interpretive operations throughout the year. “It is wonderful to be able to hire so many employees from the local community and have more in-depth cultural content shared through our interpretive programs” said David Elkowitz.
For more information about this partnership, please contact David Elkowitz at 747-0111 or Lisa Gassman at 747-7380.