State: Alaska – AK
The Alaska state abbreviation is AK, and it is located on northwestern most tip of the North American continent. To the east the state is bordered by the Canadian territory Yukon and British Columbia. To the north is the arctic ocean, and the Pacific Ocean is to the west and south.
This place has a rich culture and a history of indigenous people who have built a strong folklore. Today we’ll explore the geography, history, and culture of this amazing place.
First, here are some key points to know:
- Alaska state capital: Juneau
- Largest city: Anchorage
- Ranked 1st in total area (663,268 square miles)
- Time zones: Alaska UTC -9/-8 (east of 169 degrees) Aleutian UTC -10/-9 (west of 169 degrees)
- State abbreviation: AK
- Official website: alaska.gov
- State Flag
- Admitted to the Union: 49th on January 3, 1959
AK Regions and Geography
In terms of coastline, this state has a longer coastline than any of the others combined. While it is technically part of the Continental U.S. it isn’t commonly referred to in regards to “the lower 48.” Technically it is both the westernmost and easternmost of the 50 U.S. States.
It is twice the size of Texas, making it the largest of them all. It is larger than almost every other sovereign country in the world. There are six major regions of Alaska:
1. South Central
This is the most populated region of the area consisting of Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and the Kenai Peninsula. Rural areas south of the Alaska Range are included in this area, but remain mostly unpopulated.
This are is nicknamed the Panhandle and the Inside Passage. It is the region that is closest to the rest of the U.S. This is where most of the non-indigenous peoples settled after the Alaska Purchase. This area includes the Alexander Archipelago, and the Tongass National Forest.
The state capital, Juneau, is within this area, along with the former capital of Sitka.
This is the largest region of them all, and much of it is actually uninhabited wilderness. Fairbanks is the only large city in the area. There are some small towns and native villages throughout the area. The Denali National Park and Preserve are also located here in addition to Mount McKinley which is the highest point in North America.
This region is located roughly 500 miles inland from the Bering Sea. The population is centered on the coast. This is also where you will find Kodiak Island.
5. North Slope
This area is composed of tundra with occasional villages found throughout. Here is where you’ll find the state’s reserves of crude oil and both the National Petroleum Reserve and the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field. The northernmost city in the U.S. known as Barrow, is located in this region.
6. Aleutian Islands
This region consists of 300 small islands in a volcanic chain which extend over 1,200 miles into the Pacific Ocean. The International Date Line was actually drawn west of the 180 degree mark to keep the whole area within the same legal day.
History & Cultural Influences
For thousands of years before European settlers arrived, this location was inhabited by a wide variety of indigenous tribes. When other settlers came, these tribes were affected by smallpox outbreaks throughout the late 18th and mid-19th centuries.
The Aleutian Islands are home to the Aleut people, the North Slope and Little Diomede Island are occupied by the Inupiat people. The area was first settled by the Russians in the 17th century, followed by exploration by the Spanish between 1774 and 1800.
The Russian-American Company later instituted an expanded colonization program as well. In 1867 the U.S Secretary of State negotiated what is known as the Alaska Purchase which many people called “Seward’s Folly.” He purchased the land for 7.2 million dollars.
Originally, the area was governed by the military and became a district in 1884. Gold rushes during the 1890s brought thousands of people to the territory in the hopes of getting rich and settling down. It became an organized territory in 1912 and the capital was moved to Juneau.
James Wickersham, a congressional delegate, became focused on turning the territory into a member of the Union. Despite political battles, it became a state in January 3, 1959. In 1968 oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was completed n 1977. These two developments, there was a major oil boom.
There are some major cultural events each year that bring people together. For example, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins in Anchorage and ends in Nome. There is also an annual World Ice Art Championship in Fairbanks.
The music of the state is influenced by Natives and folk music that was brought into the area from Russian and European settlers. This has resulted in a number of music festivals that take place each year. The official state song “Alaska’s Flag” celebrates the flag of its name and was adopted in 1955.
As always there are a number of native plants, animals, and other things that have been adopted as symbols of the location. Let’s examine some of them in more detail:
- Motto: “North to the Future.”
- Nicknames: “The Last Frontier,” “Land of the Midnight Sun,” “Seward’s Icebox.”
- Bird: willow ptarmigan
- Fish: king salmon
- Flower: For-me-not
- Fossil: Wolly Mammoth
- Sport: dog mushing
The flag of Alaska is composed of eight gold stars which represent both the North Star and the Big Dipper. It was designed by Benny Benson of Seward and was chosen from a pool of 700 different entries as part of a contest in 1927.
The official seal was chosen before statehood when it was still a district. The first governor designed it with glaciers, northern lights, igloos, and Eskimo ice fishing. It was replaced in 1910 with something that was supposed to represent the industries of the location better.
The seal used today has rays above the mountains to represent the northern lights. A smelter is meant to symbolize the mining industry. A train represents the railroads, and the trees represent the large amounts of timber in the area.
Before you move on, don’t forget to check out our Alaska state facts so you can call yourself a master of this state and it’s knowledge.