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The mission of the Duncan Cottage Museum is to promote Metlakatla's unique history as Alaska's only Indian Reserve and to foster the vitality of Tsimshian art, culture, and language in our community now and into the future.

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The Duncan Cottage Museum is the former home of the late missionary William Duncan (1831-1918), who worked among the Tsimshian of British Columbia and Alaska for sixty-one years. In 1887, he was one of the leaders of the mass-migration of eight hundred and twenty three Tsimshian people from Metlakatla, British Columbia to what is now Metlakatla, Alaska. Duncan aided Tsimshian leaders in the effort to petition the US government for the land rights that they were denied in British Columbia. In 1891, the island upon which Metlakatla, Alaska is located was declared the Annette Island Indian Reserve by a Congressional Act. It remains the only Indian Reserve in the state of Alaska. Constructed in the same year as this monumental decree, Duncan’s six-room cottage was built especially for him by Tsimshian carpenters using hand-milled red cedar. He dedicated each room to his work as Metlakatla’s religious leader, business manager, primary school teacher, and health care practitioner. Upon Duncan’s death in 1918, his cottage was turned into a museum. Its collection primarily consists of his personal belongings, books, and the tools used for his diverse trades. In 1972, The Duncan Cottage Museum was designated a national historic site. It is under the auspices of Metlakatla Indian Community, the governing body of the Annette Island Indian Reserve.

Duncan’s oppression of Tsimshian traditions, along with numerous other controversial acts he carried out during his lifetime, has caused him to be a highly contested figure in Metlakatla and other Tsimshian communities. The Duncan Cottage Museum has started to address these issues by initiating public programs, classes, and exhibitions aimed at empowering the people of Metlakatla and the role of Tsimshian culture in their community. The new mission of the Duncan Cottage Museum is “to promote Metlakatla’s unique status as Alaska’s only Indian Reserve and to foster the vitality of Tsimshian art, culture, and language in our community now and in to the future.”
Our vision is to nurture a constructive dialogue on the legacy of the missionary William Duncan in the history of Metlakatla, Alaska. Like many missionaries who worked among Native people during the late 19th and early 20th Century, Duncan suppressed our cultural traditions. The Duncan Cottage Museum actively promotes our community’s healing from this history by moving forward together with our visitors through exhibitions and programs that encourage participation in and appreciation for Tsimshian culture and fosters an active interest in Metlakatla’s history.