“Alaska Day” Reflections and a Look Ahead

“Alaska Day” Reflections and a Look Ahead

October 19, 2021

Yesterday was “Alaska Day”; a day to celebrate Alaska becoming one of the best purchases of all time.  On October 18, 1867, the formal purchase of Alaska by the US from Russia was completed, with the US flag being flown in Sitka to mark the occasion.  At a total purchase price of $7.2 million – two cents an acre – the move was initially ridiculed by pundits, media and lawmakers alike.

Then, in 1896, everything changed, when gold was discovered in the Klondike.  Thousands of prospectors rushed to Alaska, with towns and settlements springing up throughout the state.

It was because of this mineral potential that the United States government came to believe Alaska could sustain itself, and – over the objections of many in Congress at the time – chose to make Alaska the 49th state in the union in 1959.  When Prudhoe Bay was discovered the next decade, we became a key part of the nation’s energy strategy; one that continues today, 154 years after the Russia-to-US transfer.

Why bring up this history?  For two reasons: First, Alaska’s always been a land where natural resources – on its land, in its waters and under its surface – have been extracted and developed.  From the original indigenous peoples’ trapping, hunting, whaling and gathering to the current mining, oil and gas, fishing and timber harvesting, our state’s natural abundance has sustained jobs and families for thousands of years.  Second, Alaska’s natural beauty has remained essentially unchanged, even as this development has occurred.

So as this year’s celebration of “Alaska Day” wraps up, let’s take a minute to reflect on our place in the US, and our responsibility to continue to advocate for opportunities to responsibly develop our vast natural resources for another 154 years.