No one knows exactly
when people first found the land that would be called Alaska.
believe that people migrated from Asia to North America
as long as 40,000 years ago. Others argue it was as recent as 15,000 years ago.
consensus is that they came from Asia by way of a northern land bridge that
once connected Siberia and Alaska.
That land bridge, now
recalled as Beringia, was the first gateway to Alaska. But these first visitors were hardly
tourists intent on exploring new
worlds. Rather they were simply pursuing their subsistence way of life as they
followed great herds of grazing mammals across the grassy tundra and gentle
steppes of Beringia.
sporadically through many millennia.. in waves of different ethnic
backgrounds/generations of people and animals..hunters and hunted. As the Ice
Age drew to an end and the seas claimed the land, these people moved to higher
and drier places--the land that, as the continents drifted apart, would become Alaska.
Some groups settled
in the Arctic. Others traversed the mountain
passes to other parts of Alaska.
While still others migrated through Alaska,
continuing on to distant lands--perhaps as far as South
Those who made Alaska their permanent
home make up the state’s four major anthropological group: Eskimos, Aleuts, Athabascans,
and Northwest Coast Indians.
While all four groups
shared certain basic similarities--all hunted, fished and gathered food--they
developed distinctive cultures and sets of skills.
Flexible Residents of
The Eskimos were
primarily a coastal people, setting along the shores of the Arctic
and Bering seas.
For millennia they
lived a simple, subsistence life--much as they still do today--by harvesting
the fish and mammals of the seas, the fruits and game of the land. Somehow they
learned how to thrive despite the demanding conditions of the Arcitc.
Their sense of
direction was keen, almost uncanny. Traveling in a straight line, sometimes
through snowstorms and whiteouts, they found their way around the mostly
featureless terrain by noting wind direction, the position of the stars, the
shape and size of a snowdrift.
And they were
resourceful. In a land where the summer sun stays at eye-level for weeks on
end, never setting below the horizon, the Eskimos fashioned the first sun-visor--which
also doubled as a snowmask to protect their eyes from the wind-driven snow!
Nomads of the
Like the Eskimos, the
Athabascans were skillful hunters, but they depended more on large land mammals
for their subsistence--tracking moose and migrating caribou.
When it came to
fishing, the Athabascans were absolutely ingenious, snaring fish with hooks,
lures, traps and nets that are the fascination of modern day anglers who visit
they lived in small, simply organized bands of a few families, and whenever
possible pitched their camps in the sheltered white spruce forests of the
Interior. Some adventurous tribes, however, wandered all the way to the Southwest United States to become kin to the Navajos and
Born of the Sea
For the Aleuts, life
centered around the sea as they distributed themselves among the 70-some
islands in the Aleutian chain across the North Pacfic.
Life here was
somewhat more benign that in the Arctic, though
wind storms were sometimes strong enough to blow rocks around!
Since their food
supply was rich, varied and readily available, the Aleuts had time to develop a
complex culture. Evidence indicates that they practiced surgery and that their
elaborate burial rituals included embalming. Instruments. utensils, even their
boats (baidars) were made with amazing beauty and exact symmetry. And
everything was fashioned for a specific purpose--the Aleuts used 30 different
kinds of harpoon heads for different species of game!
and sailors, the Aleuts had the dubious distinction of being the first to
encounter the white man...Russian fur traders who took them as slaves to
harvest the fur seals in the Pribilofs.
The Northwest Coast
High Society of
The milder, more
temperate climate and an unlimited supply of salmon and other seafood’s enabled
the Northwest Coast Indians to evolve a way of life quite different from the
Eskimos, Aleuts and Athabascans.
They settled in
year-round permanent villages, took slaves, gave lavish potlatches, and lived
their lives according to the strict rules, rituals, and regulations of their
respective clans. Their artwork was nothing less than masterful...beautiful
blankets, finely woven cedarbark and spruceroot baskets magnificent totem
the Russian Empire to the United
States of America
Treaty of Cession 15
Stat. 539Treaty concerning the Cession
of the Russian Possessions in North America by his Majesty the Emperor of all
the Russias to the United States of America; Concluded March 30, 1867; Ratified
by the United States May 28, 1867; Exchanged June 20, 1867; Proclaimed by the United
States June 20, 1867.BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA A PROCLAMATION Whereas, a treaty between the United States of
America and his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias was concluded and signed
by their respective plenipotentiaries at the city of Washington, on the
thirtieth day of March, last, which treaty, being in the English and French
languages, is, word for word, as follows:The United States of America and his Majesty the Emperor of all the
Russias, being desirous of strengthening, if possible, the good understanding
which exists between them, have, for that purpose, appointed as their
Plenipotentiaries: the President of the United States, William H. Seward,
Secretary of State; and His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, the Privy
Councillor Edward de Stoeckl his Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary to the United States.And the said Plenipotentiaries, having exchanged their full powers,
which were found to be in due form, have agreed upon and signed the following
articles:ARTICLE I His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias agrees to cede
to the United States, by this convention, immediately upon the exchange of the
ratifications thereof, all the territory and dominion now possessed by his said
Majesty on the continent of America and in the adjacent islands, the same being
contained within the geographical limits herein set forth, to wit: The eastern
limit is the line of demarcation between the Russian and the British
possessions in North America, as established by the convention between Russia
and Great Britain, of February 28 - 16, 1825, and described in Articles III and
IV of said convention, in the following terms:III. "Commencing from the southernmost point of the island called
Prince of Wales Island, which point lies in the parallel of 54 degrees 40
minutes north latitude, and between the 131st and the 133d degree of west
longitude (meridian of Greenwich,) the said line shall ascend to the north
along the channel called Portland channel, as far as the point of the continent
where it strikes the 56th degree of north latitude; from this last-mentioned
point, the line of demarcation shall follow the summit of the mountains
situated parallel to the coast as far as the point of intersection of the 141st
degree of west longitude (of the same meridian;) and finally, from the said
point of intersection, the said meridian line of the 141st degree, in its
prolongation as far as the Frozen ocean.IV. "With reference to the line of demarcation laid down in the
preceding article, it isunderstood
-"1st. That the island called
Prince of Wales Island shall belong wholly to Russia,"
(now, by this cession, to the United
States.)"2nd. That whenever the summit of the mountains which extend in a
direction parallel to the coast from the 56th degree of north latitude to the
point of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude shall prove to be
at the distance of more than ten marine leagues from the ocean, the limit
between the British possessions and the line of coast which is to belong to
Russia as above mentioned (that is to say, the limit to the possessions ceded
by this convention) shall be formed by a line parallel to the winding of the
coast, and which shall never exceed the distance of ten marine leagues therefrom."The western limit within which the
territories and dominion conveyed, are contained, passes through a point in
Behring's straits on the parallel of sixty-five degrees thirty minutes north
latitude, at its intersection by the meridian which passes midway between the
islands of Krusenstern, or Inaglook, and the island of Ratmanoff, or
Noonarbook, and proceeds due north, without limitation, into the same Frozen
ocean. The same western limit, beginning at the same initial point, proceeds
thence in a course nearly southwest through Behring's straits and Behring's
sea, so as to pass midway between the northwest point of the island of St.
Lawrence and the southeast point of Cape Choukotski, to the meridian of one
hundred and seventy-two west longitude; thence, from the intersection of that
meridian, in a southwesterly direction, so as to pass midway between the island
of Attou and the Copper island of the Kormandorski couplet or group in the
North Pacific ocean, to the meridian of one hundred and ninety-three degrees
west longitude, so as to include in the territory conveyed the whole of the
Aleutian islands east of that meridian.ARTICLE II In the cession of territory
and dominion made by the preceding article are included the right of property
in all public lots and squares, vacant lands, and all public buildings,
fortifications, barracks, and other edifices which are not private individual
property. It is, however, understood and agreed, that the churches which have
been built in the ceded territory by the Russian government, shall remain the
property of such members of the Greek
resident in the territory, as may choose to worship therein. Any government
archives, papers and documents relative to the territory and dominion
aforesaid, which may be now existing there, will be left in the possession of
the agent of the United States; but an authenticated copy of such of them as
may be required, will be, at all times, given by the United States to the
Russian government, or to such Russian officers or subjects as they may apply
for.ARTICLE III The inhabitants of the ceded territory, according to
their choice, reserving their natural allegiance, may return to Russia within
three years; but if they should prefer to remain in the ceded territory, they,
with the exception of uncivilized native tribes, shall be admitted to the
enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the
United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of
their liberty, property, and religion. The uncivilized tribes will be subject
to such laws and regulations as the United States may, from time to
time, adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country.ARTICLE
IV His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias shall appoint, with
convenient despatch, an agent or agents for the purpose of formally delivering
to a similar agent or agents appointed on behalf of the United States, the
territory, dominion, property, dependencies and appurtenances which are ceded
as above, and for doing any other act which may be necessary in regard thereto.
But the cession, with the right of immediate possession, is nevertheless to be
deemed complete and absolute on the exchange of ratifications, without waiting
for such formal delivery.ARTICLE V Immediately after the
exchange of the ratifications of this convention, any fortifications or
military posts which may be in the ceded territory shall be delivered to the
agent of the United States, and any Russian troops which may be in the
territory shall be withdrawn as soon as may be reasonably and conveniently
practicable.ARTICLE VI In consideration of the cession aforesaid, the United
States agree to pay at the treasury in Washington, within ten months after the
exchange of the ratifications of this convention, to the diplomatic
representative or other agent of his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias,
duly authorized to receive the same, seven million two hundred thousand dollars
in gold. The cession of territory and dominion herein made is hereby declared
to be free and unencumbered by any reservations, privileges, franchises,
grants, or possessions, by any associated companies, whether corporate or
incorporate, Russian or any other, or by any parties, except merely private
individual property holders; and the cession hereby made, conveys all the
rights, franchises, and privileges now belonging to Russia in the said
territory or dominion, and appurtenances thereto.ARTICLE
VII When this convention shall have been duly ratified by the President of
the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, on the one
part, and on the other by his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, the
ratifications shall be exchanged at Washington within three months from the
date hereof, or sooner if possible.In
faith whereof, the respective plenipotentiaries have signed this convention,
and thereto affixed the seals of their arms.Done at Washington,
the thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
and sixty-seven.[SEAL] WILLIAM H.
SEWARD [SEAL] EDOUARD DE STOECKLAnd
whereas the said Treaty has been duly ratified on both parts, and the
respective ratifications of the same were exchanged at Washington on this
twentieth day of June, by William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United
States, and the Privy Counsellor Edward de Stoeckl, the Envoy Extraordinary of
His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, on the part of their respective
governments,Now, therefore, be it known
that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States of America, have caused
the said Treaty to be made public, to the end that the same and every clause
and article thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United
States and the citizens thereof.In
witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States
to be affixed.Done at the city of Washington, this twentieth day of June in the year of our
Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, and of the Independence
of the United States
the ninety-first.[SEAL] ANDREW
JOHNSONBy the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State
The most important dates in the history of Alaska
- in 1959,
the 49th State.
- in 1971,
the temperature at Prospect Creek, Alaska, dropped to 80 degrees below zero,
the lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States.
- in 1988,
PL 100-241, the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act Amendments, were signed by
President Regan. The amendments gave more flexibilty to the corporations
managing Settlement lands.
- in 1973,
the Yukon Native Brotherhood presented a Statement of Claim to the federal
government, stating their position on land claims, self-goverment and other
issues which had been published in January in "Together Today For Our
- in 1944,
the final weld on the Canol pipeline laid on
by Bob Shivel, 20 months after the project began.
- in 1951,
after 3 years of rumours, the federal government approved moving the capital of
the Yukon from Dawson
City to Whitehorse. A new Federal
Building was constructed in 1952, and
the Territorial Council chambers were moved the following year, with the first
meeting held in Whitehorse
- in 1924,
Carl Ben Eielson made Alaska's
first Air Mail flight.
March (day unknown)
- in 1812,
the Russian American Company establishes a post at Fort
Ross, California to grow crops for
- in 1914, a bill authorizing the construction of
the government-financed Alaska Railroad was signed by President Wilson.
Construction started in 1915, and some sections were opened as they were
completed, but the entire line, running from Seward to Fairbanks, was not completed until July 15,
- in 1989,
the oil tanker Exxon Valdez went aground on Bligh Reef, pouring almost 11
million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.
- in 1964,
an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.4 on the Richter
Scale hits the Anchorage
area, killing 115 people and destroying hundreds of homes.
- in 1975,
the first section of pipe for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez was laid. By
August, 21,600 people were working on the project. The first oil was put
through the 800-mile line on June 20, 1977.
- in 1867,
the United States purchased Alaska for $7,200,000
- in 1951,
the Alaska Highway was turned over to Canada,
in a ceremony at Whitehorse.
- in 1898, a
series of 5 avalanches in the Chilkoot
Pass between 2:00 AM and
noon killed over 70 people.
- in 1919,
finally allowed women to vote in Territorial elections. Manitoba had been the first province to
enfranchise women, in 1916, and federal enfranchisement was passed in May 1918.
May (day unknown)
- in 1904,
the first commercial wireless communication facility in the U.S. opened, between Nome and St. Michael.
- in 1906,
the Alaska Delegate Act was passed by Congress, giving the territory's 40,000
people the right to elect a non-voting delegate to Congress.
- in 1778,
Captain James Cook entered Prince William Sound.
- in 1778,
Captain James Cook entered Cook Inlet.
- in 1894, a
resolution of the Privy Council authorizes the North-West Mounted Police into
"in the interests of peace and good government, in the interests also of
the public revenue." By June 26, Inspector Charles Constantine and
Staff-Sergeant Charles Brown were at Juneau,
heading for the goldfields of the British Yukon.
- in 1900,
Congress authorized a massive telegraph construction project in Alaska.
- in 1898,
the ice broke on Lake
Bennett; within the next
few weeks, 7,080 boats carrying 28,000 people passed the NWMP post at Tagish.
- in 1993,
the Umbrella Final Agreement is signed by representatives of the Council for
Yukon Indians and the Yukon and federal governemnts, establishing the basic
format for all 14 Yukon First Nations land claims agreements.
- in 1942, a
large carrier-based Japanese force attacked Dutch Harbour.
- in 1942,
the Japanese landed almost 2,500 troops on the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska. It took a huge Allied force until August
15, 1943 to regain control - the final invasion force numbered 34,426 troops.
- in 1898,
the Yukon Territory
- in 197,
the first oil was pumped throught the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline from
Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
July (day unknown)
- in 1786,
while charting Lituya
Bay, 2 small boats are
swamped by rip tides, and 21 French sailors drown.
- in 1968,
the oil riches of Alaska's North Slope, first reported almost 100 years ago,
were confirmed by a drilling program at Prudhoe Bay. The following year, a
total of $990,220,590 was bid in a one-day lease sale of those properties.
- in 1882,
George Krause becomes the first white man allowed to cross the Chilkat Pass to the interior.
- in 1913,
the first airplane in Alaska made a
demonstration flight at Fairbanks,
piloted by James V. Lilly.
- in 1799,
the Russian American Company is formed by Royal Charter; they were given a
20-year monopoly on trading on the coast from 55 degrees north.
- in 1919,
Louis Beauvette staked the first silver claim at Keno Hill, in the central
Yukon; by 1930 this district was producing 14% of all the silver mined in
- in 1897,
the Excelsior reaches San Francisco with the first large shipment of Klondike gold.
- in 1923,
the Alaska Railroad was completed, following 8 years of construction.
- in 1741,
Vitus Bering, on St. Elias Day, sights the Alaskan mainland. In honour of the
saint, the most prominent peak was named; this was the first point on the
northwest coast named by Europeans.
- in 1897,
reached Seattle with a large shipment of
Klondike, turning the excitement caused by the Excelsior's arrival at San
Francisco into an all-out gold rush.
- in 1902,
Felice Pedroni ("Felix Pedro") discovered gold in the Tanana Hills,
causing a stampede which resulted in the founding of Fairbanks.
- in 1867,
Alaska's first post office is authorized, to
be opened at Sitka.
- in 1868,
the Customs Act is amended to include Alaska.
- in 1900,
the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad was completed, with the Golden Spike
driven at Carcross, Yukon.
August (day not known)
- in 1876,
twelve whaling ships are trapped by ice near Point Barrow; 50 men die
attempting to reach safety.
- in 1896, a
party consisting of George Carmack, his wife Kate, Skookum Jim, Tagish Charlie
and Patsy Henderson stake placer gold claims on Rabbit Creek, and rename the
creek Bonanza Creek.
- in 1732, a
Russian expedition under surveyor Mikhail Gvozdev sights the Alaska
mainland at Cape Prince of Wales.
- in 1852,
is destroyed by a group of Tlingits who objected to the Hudson's Bay Company trying to break the
Tlingit monopoly on trade with the interior tribes.
- in 1912,
the Alaska Territorial Act was passed by Congress.
- in 1778,
Captain James Cook turned back south, having reached Lat. 71 North, Long. 197
September (day not known)
- in 1848,
the Hudson's Bay Company builds Fort Selkirk,
at the confluence of the Pelly and Yukon
- in 1871,
of the 41 whaling ships hunting in the Bering Sea, 32 are trapped by early ice;
all of the 1,200 people on the ships escaped, but 31 of the ships were
destroyed the following spring.
- in 1898
gold was discovered near the future site of Nome, triggering a stampede.
- in 1942,
the Alaska Highway opened at Contact Creek, 305 miles north of Fort
- in 1745, a
Russian fur hunter, Mikhail Nevodchikov, reaches Attu
in his search for sea otters.
- in 1895,
the North-west Territories
was divided into the Districts of Franklin, Mackenzie, Ungava and Yukon.
- in 1869,
the prediction of a total solar eclipse by American scientist George Davidson
so impressed Kohklux, chief of the Chilkat Indian village of Klukwan, he drew
him an incredibly detailed map of a vast part of the interior of the Yukon and
- in 1867,
official ceremonies at Sitka transferred Alaska from Russia
to the United States.
- in 1918,
the coastal steamer Princess Sophia
sunk near Juneau, killing 463 people, about 10% of the Yukon's white
- in 1967,
Jean Gordon, the Yukon's
first female member of the Territorial Council, takes her seat.
- in 1741,
Vitus Bering died after his ship was wrecked on an island off the Alaskan
- in 1971,
the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed into law by the
President. Among the major provisions were the transfer of title to 40 million
acres of land to native corporations, and a cash payment of $962.5 million.