Alaska: A Brief History

Alaska Map

Alaska is located east of Canada bordering the Arctic Ocean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It became the 49th state in 1959. It was originally purchased from Russia in 1867 and became a territory in 1912 until it became a state in 1959. Its capital is Juneau, though nearly half of the population resides in or near Anchorage. The Alaskan population is roughly 626,000, and it is the 48th most populous state in the United States. The largest city in Alaska is Anchorage.

Aleutian Volcano

A chain of over 300 small volcanic islands extend nearly one thousand, two hundred miles west of the Alaskan peninsula. There are fifty-seven volcanoes, most of which are within the Pacific Ring of Fire. Approximately eight thousand people lived on the islands in 2000, and more than half lived in the main settlement of Unalaska, Alaska.*

Unangan hunters wearing wooden hats demonstrating the placement of a dart in a throwing board.

Unangan hunters on man-made kayak

The native people of the islands refer to themselves as Unangan though non-natives refer to them as Aleut. The Unangan are decedents from people of early maritime hunters in Pribilof and Commander Islands. Archeologists believe that the Eskimo-Aleut began about eight thousand years ago. They got their name from Russian fur traders who exploited their ability to hunt sea animals. The Russians attributed to the decline of the Unangan culture by bringing outside diseases like smallpox and influenza. Many of the Unangan were killed or forced into slavery by the Russians. When the Russians first arrived in the Aleutian Islands, the population was nearly 25,000 and now it is roughly 2,000.


(Sarah Collins)