Encyclopedia Article


Alaska is the 49th U.S. state, and is located at the northwest tip of the North American continent. The name Alaska is derived from the Native Aleut language's term "alaxsxa" meaning "great land." The territory now known as Alaska has been occupied by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Starting in the 1700s, European powers competed over control of the region. Alaska's strategic positioning at the center of maritime and aerial routes connecting North America, Europe, and Asia made it a desirable stronghold in terms of both military and commercial significance. In 1867, the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia but its admission into the union did not occur until 1959. With a land area covering 586,412 miles, Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. Because of its separation and distance from the rest of the country, and challenging geographic and climate conditions, Alaska was slow to be explored and populated by Europeans and Americans. It is still considered the “last American frontier,” stretching over vast areas of undeveloped land and untapped resources, most of which are located on Native Alaskan territory.

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"Alaska, May 20, 2006" by Steve Lyon is licensed under CC BY-SA.