Wednesday: Alaska Day is a uniquely Alaskan holiday, but for how long?

Alaska Day reenactment ceremony in Sitka in 2017. Photo credit: Sgt. David Bedard, Alaska National Guard.

One hundred and fifty-six years ago, the papers were signed, the ink was dry, and Alaska became the property of the United States of America.

Russia needed cash because the Crimean War had sapped its treasury, and Secretary of State William Seward thought the land of the north was a good addition to the growing nation, what with all the timber and fish. That was before gold was discovered in Alaska.

Russia, which had conquered and claimed Alaska during the explorations of Vitus Bering, had offered several times to sell the land beginning in 1859, and America had interest in buying it — but also had an ongoing civil war to fight starting in 1861 and not nearly enough resources to go around until 1867.

The actual transfer ceremony took place at Castle Hill in Sitka on Oct. 18, 1867, where reenactments are still done each year and where the day is most celebrated.

Alaska was not a territory until 1912, and just five years later, in 1917, the territorial legislature declared Alaska Day a holiday. It is now a paid holiday for state employees. 

Alaska Day is protested by some who view it as a celebration of colonialism and the unlawful taking of land from the Native people who lived on it.

Native groups say the land was not Russia’s to sell and therefore it does not belong to the United States. For the past few years, objectors have shown up at the Alaska Day celebrations to show their disapproval of the day and to ask for it to be rebranded as a day of reconciliation, or for reparations.

This year, Alaska Day comes just before the opening of the Alaska Federation of Natives annual conference in Anchorage. The AFN convention, Oct. 19-21 at the Dena’ina Convention Center, is a forum for the Native community to participate in steering public policy and to advance Native interests.

More about the purchase of Alaska at the U.S. State Department site at this link.


  1. Only Russian interests were sold.. (Stores, forts etc). Everything else was valid existing property rights of the natives. Those were extinguished by 1971 Land Claims Settlement Act and formation of ANCSA Corporations to give opportunity to extract resources. See how well the Dems embraced that concept.

  2. Since the beginning of humanity, groups of people have conquered, invaded, and taken over the lands of other people. Native Americans fought each other for territory. Maybe European Americans should all go “back” to their respective European countries and demand that non-natives of those countries leave. I’m sure that would go over well with the “America is on stolen land” crowd….. – M.John

  3. The blessing of Western expansion from Europe is it introduced to us Israel and Jesus, the world’s savior, protector, redeemer, provider, healer, friend, king. The naysayers can hold on to their indigenous past. But! The past is dead and there is no comfort in what’s gone. My ancestors can’t comfort me, their memories can’t teach me, if they had any strength it can’t protect me. Columbus Day-Alaska Day. It’s the day Redemption-Reconciliation came to Americas.

  4. Being butt hurt about everything is the current fad obsession. Why should AFN be left out?

    The “natives” already have the settlement act. That’s as far as it’s going. Besides, considering the hard left lean of our legislators, it’ll probably be remained Harvey Milk Day or Drag Queen Day soon enough.

  5. There was also interest in building a railroad from the continental US up through what is now British Columbia to Alaska and on across Siberia to Europe. That was one reason for the purchase. The governor of the British Columbia territory at that time wanted to secede from the British Empire and join the United States. But he was replaced when the British found out about it. Would have been quite interesting. More forgotten history.

    • Some people aren’t teachable. Some are not even trainable. Everybody challenge yourself to learn a new skill.

    • Maybe the Kalahari Bushmen are indigenous but everyone else in the world came from somewhere else. So it looks like they do not have a point and neither do you.

      • Most indigenous people migrated into areas not formerly occupied by anyone, Fire. You must have ditched Anthropology class that day – a fairly common occurrence I think – judging by the usual tone and content of your MRAK comments.

  6. If AFN is serious, they need to immediately vacate all the lands they have and let it return to nature.

    The bears and the moose were here, first.

  7. Who are the indigenous people? Today’s natives’ ancestors crossed the Siberian land bridge. They displaced who was ever here before them. The had wars taking and losing land. If they want reparations, I suggest they go see Putin. I’m sure he’ll be up for it.

  8. If the US hadn’t owned Alaska during the early 1900s, it would have been a sitting duck just ripe for Russia or Japan to grab. It wouldn’t have stayed free. Would’ve gotten gobbled up during WWII and even more natives would have suffered deportation to POW camps or gulags than the poor souls from the Aleutians. Japan had hungry eyes for Alaska for decades before WWII opened the door for conquest. Alaska Natives would have found themselves subject either to imperial rule or to communism, neither of which was a treat to live under.
    America lost the highest proportion of soldiers per battle in WWII defending Attu from Japanese invasion. An often forgotten fact. Many of them died brutally on Japanese bayonets. Other American men lost their lives in the frigid sea when their planes went down. Say thank you.

    • Islanders were mostly untouched during the Japanese occupation of the south seas. Alaskan natives would have been no different. They weren’t a threat to anyone.

  9. If people would just stop from trying to rewrite history to fit their agenda, they would all realize how important the Alaska Purchase was to all peoples. Take a trip to the Russian Far East if you need a visual aid. Not to say that mistakes haven’t been made but consider the options. And the people who have come to Alaska since the purchase because of their love of the beauty of the place should not be treated poorly either. The exploiters and carpet baggers maybe. But they are everywhere.

  10. I have heard plausible info that the world trader China advanced a loan to the United States at the time to help pay for the itemized purchase of the Russian interests of Seward’s Folly. If so an accounting must exist when and how such contributions if any were/are “settled”. Summation of “deals” are interpreted differently by different cultures even in context of contemporary days and ancient days. Those who have faith in God’s Kingdom on Earth will be satisfied that all such matters will be set straight by God’s King Jesus.

      • After civil war costs, renting or standing up a navy? America wasn’t financially good at all at that time.

        • Yes we were. Railroads, telegraph lines expanding, steamships, farming, manufacturing was all expanded. It was a time of plenty and a boom for the United States. It happened almost overnight after the war.

          • Ok. No one lent funds to the war. The Navy paid for itself. There were no Conestoga wagons etc. You know it all Grrrrrreg!!!! The usual players wanted what they wanted. They folded and went home. They are OK with being unpaid like they all did. It’s all in the history books the kids won’t read. PLEASANTLY, WE HAVE OUR MUSES.

  11. It’s a good thing Russians & Americans showed up to stop the ongoing slavery amongst the SE tribes of Alaska.
    They get along now, but there is still a hint of bitterness on the Haida side (the Tlingits dominated)

Comments are closed.