Alaska Day

Next Friday, 18 October 2024

Alaska Day is a holiday observed on October 18th. It commemorates the transfer of the territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States, as well as the first time that the American flag was flown in Alaska, on October 18, 1867. 

The day is a public holiday in Alaska, where schools and businesses are closed and most people have the day off. If October 18th falls on a weekend, then the holiday is observed on the closest weekday. 

History of Alaska Day

The Russians ruled the territory of Alaska for 68 years, until March 30th, 1867, when the United States purchased it for 7.2$ million. However, representatives of the United States did not arrive in Alaska to complete the transfer until October 18th, 1867.

This was when the American flag was raised at Fort Sitka and 250 American troops marched to the governor's house where the Russian flag was lowered and replaced with the American flag. 

Alaska was derived from the word "Alyeska" which means "great land", and it was nicknamed "the last frontier". 

Americans were not happy with the purchase and thought it was a waste of money to pay so much for the Alaskan territory. However, in 1897, gold was found in Klondike, which prompted a gold rush in Alaska, and hundreds of thousands of people eventually moved to what would become the state's capital. 

In 1898, gold seekers found more gold on the coast of Alaska in Nome.

Alaska also proved to be a crucial territory to own during World War II, when its strategic position was important to station troops to fight during Japan's invasion of the Aleutian Islands.

Alaska earned its status as the 49th state of the United States on January 3, 1959. 

Alaskan Natives don't celebrate Alaska Day because they believe their land was taken from them forcefully, and the sale to the United States was illegal.

How Alaska Day is celebrated

Alaska Day is celebrated in Sitka with a three-day festival featuring a costume ball, races, performances like dances and concerts, an army band and demonstration, and the mayor's proclamation. People also have the opportunity to enjoy tea at the Pioneer's Home.

There is also a re-enactment of the flag-raising ceremony that took place in 1867 when the territory was transferred, as well as a memorial service and parade through the city featuring the armed forces and marching bands. 

Lesser Known Historical Facts About Alaska

  • Seward's Folly: In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. This decision was widely criticized by many Americans, and Secretary of State William H. Seward, who negotiated the purchase, faced mocking names like "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox."

  • The Aleutian Islands Campaign: During World War II, the Aleutian Islands, part of Alaska, became a battleground between the United States and Japan. The Japanese invaded the islands of Attu and Kiska in 1942, marking the only foreign occupation of American soil during the war. The campaign to retake the islands was challenging due to harsh weather conditions and difficult terrain.

  • The Klondike Gold Rush: While the Klondike Gold Rush is well-known, it's worth mentioning for its significant impact on Alaska's history. In the late 1890s, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Yukon, Canada, which sparked a massive influx of people into Alaska as they sought their fortune. This led to the development of towns and infrastructure in the region.

  • The 1964 Earthquake: On March 27, 1964, Alaska experienced one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in North America, with a magnitude of 9.2. The earthquake caused widespread destruction, including tsunamis and landslides, and resulted in more than 130 deaths.

  • The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act: In 1971, the U.S. Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which provided for the settlement of Alaska Native land claims. The act established regional Native corporations and allowed for the transfer of 44 million acres of land and a financial settlement to Alaska Natives.

  • Alaska's Unique Flag: The state flag of Alaska, designed by Benny Benson, is one of the few state flags with a simple, modern design and a non-rectangular shape. It features the Big Dipper constellation and the North Star, symbolizing Alaska's northern location and its significance to the state's indigenous people.

  • The Forgotten War of 1942: During World War II, the Japanese forces bombed and occupied the remote Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska. The Battle of Attu in May 1943 marked the only time since the War of 1812 that a foreign power captured and occupied American territory.

Alaska Day
Alaska Day

Alaska Day - Next years

Saturday, 18 October 2025

Sunday, 18 October 2026

Monday, 18 October 2027

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