The Cultural Background of Alaska


Tracing the historical and cultural background of Alaska-the largest state in USA and also the last to join the federation of states-one is transported back to the Upper Paleolithic era. Now that prehistoric period goes back some 14,000 years before the birth of Christ during which time Siberian factions entered western Alaska via the land bride of Bering. Alaska was originally inhabited by tribes that go by the names of Inupiaq, Yupik, Cupik, Unangax, Alutiiq, Athabasca, Eyak, Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit.

The Russians were the first European explorers to trudge to Alaska when they confronted the native groups and were also the earliest colonists to settle in the state. The phase of rampant settlement started during the Klondike Gold Rush in Yukon Territory in 1890s. Shortly after Alaska was declared a territory in 1912, Japan invaded and annexed Attu and Kiska, two islands belonging to the outer region of Aleutian Islands.

Military bases and cantonments set up for stationing US and Allied troops developed into full-fledged Alaskan cities. Initially, legislators and senators in USA were reluctant to granted statehood to Alaska because of its isolation from the mainland and its unstable economy. Nevertheless, the invasion by the Japanese brought the state into the fore highlighting its strategic significance and it eventually became the 50th US state in 1959 on 9th January.

That Alaska had been peopled eons back is substantiated by the accidental discovery of relics and planned excavations. Additionally, discovery of natural resources in the form of fossil fuels, gold, and minerals have led to large-scale migrations and exoduses that has helped to shape the state’s history. Watershed and epochal events that took place in the last 500-700 years have catalyzed spurts in human populations.

The native populace of the state is categorized into 11 specific cultures where each cultural sect has its own language that in turn has led to the development of 22 distinct dialects. So that tourists, visitors and anybody who’s interested to study the cultural and historical backdrop of the eclectic native population can have it easy, the ‘Alaska Native Heritage Center’ has categorized the same into five separate cultural groups.



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