Alaska History Facts
It is believed that the first inhabitants of the area known today as Alaska were people migrating from Asia across the Bering Land Bridge.
Related: Alaska State Facts.
Thousands of years ago the land between Asia and North America was connected by a strip of land that disappeared during the last Ice Age.
The original inhabitants were nomads for the most part and settled along the coastline of North America.
They became the ancestors of various tribes, such as the Tlingit, the Haida, the Aleut, the Tsimshian, and the Inuit.
Over thousands of years, the people dispersed to various parts of the far north, Canada, and the United States.
The Arrival of the Europeans
In the 1700s, explorers from Europe began arriving along the west coast of Canada in search of the Northwest Passage.
Some explorers met the inhabitants and some stayed with the tribes over the winter learning about the different native cultures.
They also mapped the area for future exploration. In 1784, Russian explorers were the first Europeans to have a permanent settlement in Alaska.
Later, Spain and Britain sent explorers to the area especially searching for the Northwest Passage and establishing fur trading outposts.
After the first Russian settlement in 1784, Russia claimed ownership of the entire area known as Alaska.
In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska for just over $7 million, which amounted to two cents an acre.
People believed that the purchase of “useless land” was a huge mistake but changed their minds when gold was discovered.
Gold was discovered in Alaska’s Klondike area in 1896. And the Klondike and Yukon Gold Rush began.
For the next three years, men, women, and families began flocking to the area in search of gold.
It was a time of almost lawlessness with many gold stakes being stolen and miners being shot for their stash of gold.
Businesses were selling all the trappings needed to start mining, and gambling halls were seeking to relieve the miners of their gold.
Invasion by Japan
Japan invaded two of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska during World War 2.
The United States Army responded and reclaimed the islands and established military posts along the coast of Alaska.
To provide armaments and provisions for the Army posts and various towns and cities in the north, a highway was built that connected Montana and Fairbanks, Alaska.
The 49th State
In 1912, Alaska was declared a Territory. During WWll, Alaska became a very important military area. When oil was discovered, Alaska became even more important to the United States.
In 1959, Alaska was declared the United States’ 49th state.
- Where did the first inhabitants of the area now known as Alaska come from?
- How did the nomads reach the North American continent?
- Name five tribes that are descendants of the first inhabitants of Alaska.
- What made people travel in droves to the Klondike area of Alaska?
- Why did Alaska become a very important area for the military?
- The first inhabitants of Alaska came from Asia.
- The nomads crossed the Bering Sea by a land bridge.
- Five tribes that are descendants of the first inhabitants of Alaska are the Tlingit, the Haida, the Aleut, the Tsimshian, and the Inuit.
- News spread about gold being found in Alaska and thousands traveled there in search of fortune.