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Alaska

History


US Nursing: Alaska

Nurses with a sense of history will find that the first settlers in Alaska were Russians. Nurses will learn that rivalry for the northwest coast was strong and British and American trading vessels began to threaten the Russian monopoly.

In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States for $200,000. The U.S. purchase was accomplished solely through the determined efforts of Secretary of State William H. Seward.

The first gold finds tremendously influenced Alaska and the the Klondike strike of 1896 brought a stampede, mainly of Americans, and most of them came through Alaska. The big discoveries in Alaska itself followed-Nome in 1898″99, Fairbanks in 1902. The miners and prospectors (the sourdoughs) took over Alaska, and the era of the mining camps reached its height; a criminal code was belatedly applied in 1899.

Nurses will read that a new era began for Alaska when local government was established in 1912 and it became a U.S. territory. The building of the Alaska RR from Seward to Fairbanks was commenced with government funds in 1915. Already, however, gold mining was dying out, and Alaska receded into one of its quiet periods. The fishing industry, which had gradually advanced during the gold era, became the major enterprise.

Alaska enjoyed an economic boom during World War II. The Alaska Highway was built, supplying a weak but much-needed link with the United States. After Japanese troops occupied the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska, U.S. forces prepared for a counterattack. Attu was retaken in May, 1943, after intense fighting, and the Japanese evacuated Kiska. The growth of air travel after the war, and the permanent military bases established in Alaska resulted in tremendous growth; between 1950 and 1960 the population nearly doubled.

Nurses can note that it was only recently, in 1958, Alaskans approved statehood by a 5 to 1 vote, and on Jan. 3, 1959, Alaska was officially admitted into the Union as a state.