Alaska: Amazing Facts About The Last Frontier

By | July 8, 2022

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USA, Alaska, Denali National Park, grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) standing, looking at rainbow, rear view. (Johnny Johnson/Getty Images)

The Bering Land Bridge

Scientists estimate that as far back as 15,000 years ago, there was a land bridge between what is now Alaska and Russia that allowed ancient humans to travel between the two lands without facing the dangerous Bering Sea. These Paleolithic peoples went on to settle both the North and South American continents, though some stayed in Alaska and became the Athabascans, the Aleut, the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Athabascans, the Inupiat, and the Yup'ik peoples, who still live on the land today. The land bridge was consumed by rising sea waters at the end of the Ice Age, dividing the Americas from the rest of the world for thousands of years until 1741, when Russian explorer Vitus Bering made contact with Alaskans again.

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A modern Alutiiq dancer in traditional festival garb. (Christopher Mertl/Wikimedia Commons)

The Largest State

As often happened in the 1700s, the foreign explorers decided to take the land for themselves, and by 1784, the first Russian settlement was established on Kodiak Island. After their defeat in the Crimean War, however, Russia wasn't exactly looking to spend money and human resources on a territory that was almost impossible to defend and whose land and wildlife was just as dangerous as any army that wanted to invade. Thus, they offered to sell it to the United States, who bought the territory in 1867 for the incredibly cheap price of two cents an acre, or $7.2 million (which is still only around $150 million in today's money), but it didn't officially become a state until 1959. At over 665,000 miles, Alaska is the largest state in the country by land but the third-smallest by population. Per the most recent census, Alaska boasts a population of only 737,000 people, half of whom live in the city of Anchorage.