Monday, May 11, 2009

Celebrating Statehood

On January 3 of this year, the state of Alaska celebrated the 50th anniversary of its admittance to the Union. At one point in time, my knowledge of Alaska was limited to the general social studies curriculum in public schools, the show Northern Exposure (which was not actually even filmed in Alaska), and my father’s brief trip to the Aleutian Islands when I was 6. Needless to say, processing Hugh Peterson’s Congressional committee files was a great learning opportunity -- for when I started arranging the files pertaining to his committee trips, I found information about a trip he took to Alaska in 1945.

Alaska Governor Ernest Gruening speaking
at a Congressional dinner, August 1945

He served on the Rivers and Harbors Committee, the service on which took him to Texas, California, Washington and Alaska during the mid 1940s. Although that was 14 years before the territory was admitted into the Union, statehood was on the mind of several in Alaska when Peterson visited. He jotted down a few notes in a notebook from a dinner he attended at which Governor Ernest Gruening made remarks, some of which endorsed statehood for the territory.

Also while visiting Alaska, the Congressional group was treated to a presentation in Klukwan by the Jilkaat tribe of the Tinglits, who are indigenous to what is now the southeastern coast of Alaska. I wonder what they thought of statehood.

No comments: