Alaska Day is a legal holiday that’s observed in the U.S state of Alaska. This day commemorates the date of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska from Russia to the U.S on October 18, 1867. It’s been a holiday since 1917. It’s a holiday in which Alaskans can show pride in their state-although it has been protested over the years by Alaskan Native Peoples who view the holiday as a celebration of the violence used to rip their land from them. Since this holiday is an official state holiday in Alaska, many government buildings, schools, and businesses are closed on this day.
The History Of Alaska Day
Alaska has been settled by humans for over 12,000-years. The first wave of humans to cross the Bering land bridge in western Alaska were probably migrants from Asia. The coastal panhandle of the state was settled by the Tlingit people and the southern portion of Prince of Wales Island was settled by the Haidas. Along the Aleutian chain, the Aleuts settled. And this is just a handful of the Native people who lived in the area.
During the 18th century, Russian exploration expeditions began in the area and soon colonial traders also occupied the area. Some of these Russian traders were able to coexist with local populations, but most of them did not. During the Russian occupation of the area over a forty-year span, hostages were taken, families were split up and some had to settle in other places. These groups were also decimated by New World diseases for which they had no natural immunity. Up to 80% of Aleut people died from these diseases during that time.
From the 19th century on, the Russian hold on the area began to weaken due to several factors including attacks from Native peoples and competition from American traders. Compounded by the fact that Russia was facing financial difficulties, and that Alaskan settlement resulted in low profits, Russia decided to sell its possessions in North America to the U.S. At the insistence of U.S Secretary of State William Seward, the U.S Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from Russia for a sum of $7.2 million on August 1, 1867. On October 18, 1867, the U.S flag was raised in Alaska for the first time. On the 50th anniversary of that event, October 18 would become an official state holiday in 1917.
Observing Alaska Day
Many official celebrations of Alaska Day are held in Sitka, Alaska. This is where there are events such as parades held and reenactment of the original raising of the U.S flag in 1867. It’s also a paid holiday for state workers and government buildings are closed. Schools are also closed on this day, as are some businesses. People can also acknowledge this day by using the hashtag #AlaskaDay on their social media accounts.