Alaska Chronology

Alaska Chronology

Presented below is a chronology of historical events derived from written records. Native Alaskan history prior to the arrival of Russians and Europeans was passed on almost exclusively through oral narratives and stories. These oral histories converge with archeology to suggest that Natives have lived and moved through Alaska for at least 10,000 years. The list of events below, however, primarily reflects the history of western settlers who entered Alaska less than 300 years ago. For more information about Alaska Natives, their history, and oral traditions, visit our Alaska Native page and try the links at the bottom. The following information was taken from The Blue Book, 1993-1994 the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Alaska Almanac, Alaska Economic Trends, 1999, and the Anchorage Daily News.

Russian treaty for the sale of Alaska.

English version of the treaty for the sale of Alaska

1725 Tzar Peter the Great sends Vitus Bering to explore the North Pacific.
1728 Vitus Bering sails through Bering Strait.
1733 Bering embarks on his second expedition, with George Wilhelm Steller aboard, the first naturalist to visit Alaska.
1741 Alexei Chirikof, with Bering's expedition, sights land on July 15 in Southeast Alaska. The Europeans had found Alaska.
1742 First scientific report on the North Pacific fur seal.
1743 Concentrated hunting of sea otter by Russia begins.
1774 Juan Perez is ordered by Spain to explore the west coast and discovers Prince of Wales Island, Dixon Sound.
1776 Captain James Cook leads an expedition to search for Northwest Passage.
1778 Cook reaches King Island, Norton Sound, Unalaska.
1784 Grigorii Shelikhov establishes the first permanent non-Native settlement at Three Saints Bay, Kodiak.
1786 Gerassim Pribilof discovers the rookeries on the islands now known as the Pribilofs.
1791 George Vancouver leaves England to explore Alaska's coast; Alejandro Malaspina explores the Pacific Northwest coast for Spain.
1792 Catherine II grants a limited monopoly of furs in Alaska to Grigorii Shelikov.
1794 Baranov builds the first vessel in northwestern America at Voskres-senski on Kenai.
1795 The first Russian Orthodox Church is established at Kodiak.
1799 Alexander Baranov establishes the Russian post known today as Old Sitka; Tzar Paul I grants exclusive trading rights to the Russian American Company
1802 Tlingits drive Russians from Old Sitka; few Russians survive.
1804 Russians return to Sitka and attack Tlingit Kiksadi fort on Indian River. Russians lose the battle, but Natives are forced to flee. Baranov reestablishes the Russian settlement at the modern site of Sitka.
1805 Yurii Lisianski sails to Canton with the first Russian cargo of furs to be sent directly to China.
1821 No foreigners are allowed in Russian-American waters except at regular ports of call.
1824 Russians begin exploration of mainland Alaska that leads to discovery of the Nushagak, Kuskokwim, Yukon, and Koyukuk Rivers.
1834 Father Veniaminov moves to Sitka and is consecrated Bishop Innokenty in 1840.
1840 Russian Orthodox diocese formed. Bishop Innokenty Venianminov given permission to use Native languages in the liturgy.
1841 Edward de Stoeckl assigned to the secretariat of the Russian legation in U.S.
1847

Fort Yukon established by the Hudson's Bay Trading Company.

1848 Cathedral of St. Michael Dedicated at New Archangel (Sitka).
1853 Russian explorer -trappers find oil seeps in Cook Inlet.
1857 Coal mining begins at Coal Harbor on the Kenai Peninsula.
1859 De Stoeckl returns to U.S. from St. Petersburg with authority to negotiate the sale of Alaska.
1861 Gold discovered on the Stikine River near Telegraph Creek.
1865 Western Union Telegraph Company prepares to put telegraph line across Alaska and Siberia.
1867 U.S. purchases Alaska from Russia; Pribilof Islands placed under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Treasury. Fur seal population which was stable under Russian rule, declines rapidly.
1868 Alaska designated as the Department of Alaska under Brevet Major General Jeff C. Davis, U.S. Army.
1869 The Sitka Times, Alaska's first newspaper is published.
1872 Gold is discovered near Sitka and in British Columbia (Cassiar).
1874 George Halt, said to be the first white man to cross the Chilkoot Pass, searches for gold.
1876 Gold discovered south of Juneau at Windham Bay.
1877 U.S. troops withdrawn from Alaska.
1878 The future Sheldon Jackson Junior College opens in Sitka. First canneries in Alaska are established at Klawock and Sitka.
1880 Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau, with the aid of local Tlingit leader Kowee, discover gold on Gastineau Channel; Juneau is founded.
1881 Parris Lode claim staked which by 1995 is part of the most prominent mine in Alaska; the Treadwell Mine.
1882 The first commercial herring fishery begins at Killisnoo; near Angoon and the first two canneries are built in Central Alaska. The U.S. Navy bombs and burns the Tlingit village of Angoon.
1884 Congress passes the Organic Act, allowing the first local government, and $15,000 is appropriated to educate Indian children.
1885 Dr. C.H. Townsend suggests the introduction of reindeer into Alaska. Sheldon Jackson appointed General Agent for Education in Alaska.
1887 Father William Duncan and his Tsimshian followers found Metlakatla on Annette Island.
1888 Boundary survey start by Dr. W.H. Dall of the U.S. and Dr. George Dawson of Canada.
1890 Large corporate salmon canneries begin to appear. Dr. Sheldon Jackson explores Arctic Coast and begins reindeer husbandry into Alaska.
1891 First oil claims staked in the Cook Inlet area.
1892 Afognak Reserve established, beginning the Alaska Forest Service System.
1894 Gold discovery on Mastadon Creek, founding Circle City.
1896 Dawson City founded at the mouth of the Klondike River; gold discovered on Bonanza Creek.
1897-1900 Klondike Gold Rush
1897 First shipment of fresh halibut sent south from Juneau.
1898 Skagway is the largest city in Alaska; work starts on White Pass and Yukon railroad; Congress appropriates money for telegraph from Seattle to Sitka; Nome gold rush begins.
1899 Local government organized in Nome.
1900 Civil Code for Alaska divides the future state into three judicial districts, with judges at Sitka, Eagle, and St. Michael; capital moves to Juneau. White Pass railroad completed; U.S. Congress passes the act to establish the Washington-Alaska Military Cable (WAMCATS) that later becomes the Alaska Communications Systems (ACS.)
1902 President Theodore Roosevelt establishes the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve.
1904 Large Tlingit potlatch held in Sitka; underwater cables laid from Seattle to Sitka, and from Sitka to Valdez, linking Alaska to the "outside."
1905 Tanana railroad built; telegraph links Fairbanks and Valdez; Alaska Road Commission established under Army jurisdiction.
1906 Alaska authorized to send voteless delegate to Congress; governor's office moved from Sitka to Juneau.
1907 Gold discovered at Ruby; Richardson trail established; The Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve becomes the Tongass National Forest, the largest U.S. forest by presidential proclamation.
1908 The first cold storage plant is built at Ketchikan.
1911 International agreement between U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Russia, and Japan controls fur, seal, and fisheries; sea otters placed under complete protection; Copper River and Northwestern Railroad bigns service to Kennicott Copper Mine.
1912 Territorial status won for Alaska, providing for Legislature; Alaska Native Brotherhood organizes in Southeast; Mount Katmai explodes forming the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.
1913 First Alaska Territorial Legislature convenes.
1914 Surveying begins for Alaska Railroad, and the City of Anchorage is born as a construction campsite.
1915 Alaska Native Sisterhood holds first convention in Sitka.
1916 First bill for Alaska statehood introduced in Congress. Alaskans vote in favor of prohibition by a 2 to 1 margin.
1917 Treadwell Mine complex caves in.
1918 Congress creates Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines as a land grant college.
1920 Anchorage organizes city government.
1922 Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines opens. Native voting rights established through a court case.
1923 President Warren E. Harding comes to Alaska to drive the last spike in the Alaska Railroad.
1924 Congress extends citizenship to all Indians in the United States, Tlingit William Paul, Sr. is the first Native elected to Alaska Legislature. Start of airmail delivery to Alaska.
1928 Court case resolves the right of Native children to attend public school.
1929 U.S. Navy begins 5-year survey to map parts of Alaska; Alaska Native Brotherhood convention at Haines resolves to pursue land claims settlement in Southeast Alaska.
1932 Radio telephone communications established in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Nome.
1935 Matanuska Valley Project established; nine hundred Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine workers go on a strike that lasts 40 days and ends in violence; the "Jurisdictional Act of June, 1935" allows the Tlingit and Haida Indians to pursue land claims in U.S. Court of Claims.
1936 The "Indian Reorganization Act of 1935" is amended to include Alaska; Nell Scott of Seldovia becomes the first woman elected to the Territorial Legislature.
1940 Fort Richardson established; construction begins on Elmendorf Air Force Base.
1942 Japan bombs Dutch Harbor and invades the Aleutians.
1944 Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine shuts down, ending hard rock mining around downtown Juneau.
1945 Governor Gruening signs the Anti-discrimination Act, the first such legislation passed in the United States and its possessions.
1946 A b oarding school for Native high school students opens at Mt. Edgecumbe.
1947 The Alaska Command is established, the first united command of the U.S. staffed jointly by Army, Air Force, and Navy officers. First Alaska Native land claims suit, filed by Tlingit and Haida people, introduced in U.S. Court Claims.
1948 Alaskans vote to abolish fish traps by a 10 to 1 margin.
1953 Oil well drilled near Eureka on Glenn Highway marks the beginning of Alaska's modern oil history; first plywood operations begin in Juneau; first big Alaskan pulp mill opens at Ketchikan. First Alaska television broadcast in KENI, Anchorage.
1955 Alaskans elect delegates to constitutional convention.
1955 Constitutional Convention opens at the University of Alaska.
1956 Territorial voters adopt the Alaska constitution; two senators and one representative are sent to Washington under the Tennessee Plan to push for statehood.
1958 Statehood measure passes; President Eisenhower signs statehood bill.
1959 WE'RE IN! Statehood proclaimed; state constitution in effect; Sitka pulp mill opens; U.S. Court of Claims issues judgment favoring Tlingit and Haida claims to Southeast Alaska lands.
1964 Good Friday Earthquake destroys $311 million of property in over a dozen towns around Prince Wiliam Sound. With a magnitude of 9.2, this is the largest recorded earthquake in the United States.
1966 Alaska Federation of Natives organized. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall imposes a "land freeze" to protect Native use and occupancy of Alaska lands.
1967 The Fairbanks Flood causes millions of dollars of damage and forces thousands out of their homes.
1968 Oil is pumped from a well at Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope; Governor Hickel establishes the "Alaska Land Claims Task Force" that recommends a 40-million acre land settlement for Alaska Natives.
1969 North Slope Oil lease sale brings $900 million for the state; first live satellite telecast takes place in Alaska.
1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act signed into law, giving Natives rights to about a 10th of Alaska's land and nearly $1 billion dollars and creating Native village and regional corporations.
1972 The Alaska Constitution amended to prohibit sexual discrimination.
1973 Congress passes the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act; salmon fisheries limited entry program becomes law.
1974 Alaska voters approve capitol move initiative.
1975 Alaska Legislature appropriates fund to initiate purchase and installation of 100 satellite earth stations for establishment of statewide satellite communications network.
1976 Natural gas pipeline proposals filed; Alaska voters pick Willow as new capitol site; voters approve constitutional amendment establishing Alaska Permanent Fund to receive "at least 25 percent" of all state oil royalties and related income. 
1977 Trans-Alaska Pipeline completed from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
1980 Alaska Legislature increases Permanent Fund share of oil revenues from 25 to 50 percent; repeals Alaska personal income tax; establishes Alaska Dividend Fund to distribute Permanent Fund earnings to Alaska residents; Congress passes Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
1982 Alaska voters repeal law relocating capitol to Willow and establish state spending limit; the first Permanent Fund dividends are distributed.
1983 Alaska time zone changed, except for the westernmost Aleutian Islands, all of Alaska is consolidated under Alaska Standard Time, one hour west of Pacific Standard time; crab stocks are so low that most commercial seasons are cancelled, the drinking age is raised from 18 to 21 by the Legislature.
1985 State purchases Alaska Railroad from the federal government, declining oil prices cause budget problems.
1986 Price of oil drops below $10 per barrel, causing Alaska oil revenues to plummet; the Legislature passes a new bill governing subsistence hunting and fishing.
1987 The economic doldrums from oil prices continue to affect the state, causing many to lose their jobs and leave, banks to foreclose on property, and businesses to go bankrupt; a new military build-up in Alaska begins when the first troops of the new Sixth Infantry Division begin arriving in Fairbanks.
1988 International efforts to rescue two whales caught by ice off Barrow captures world-wide attention; the state's economic woes continue and Anchorage loses 30,000 in population; the Soviets allow a one-day visit of a group of Alaskans to the Siberian port city of Provideniya; Anchorage loses its bid to host the 1994 Olympic Winter Games to Lillenhammer, Norway.
1989 The Exxon Valdez, a 987-foot oil tanker carrying 53 million gallons of North Slope crude, grounds on Bligh Reef spilling 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound; the Permanent Fund passes the $10 billion mark; Alaska Supreme Court throws out Alaska's rural preference subsistence law.
1990 The Alaska Legislature meets in special session and struggles unsuccessfully to resolve the subsistence issue; federal authorities take over subsistence management on federal lands; oil prices temporarily double after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; Walter Hickel makes a political comeback by joining lieutenant governor candidate Jack Coghill on the Alaska Independence Party ticket and winning the gubernatorial race; Congress sets aside more Southeast Alaska forest as wilderness by passing the Tongass Reform Act.
1991 The State of Alaska, the U.S. Justice Department and Exxon reach a $1 billion settlement resulting from the Exxon Valdez oil spill which is rejected by the U.S. District Court. An amended settlement earmarking more money for restoration work in Price William Sound wins judicial approval. Congress effectively closes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development; Bristol Bay fishermen strike over low salmon prices; the Hickel administration and the Legislature are unable to resolve the subsistence issue.
1992 Alaska's recession is felt as the oil industry retrenches with major job losses; the Anchorage Times, once Alaska's largest newspaper, folds; reapportionment challenges delay primaries by two weeks; Spurr Volcano erupts three times, one blast dumping ash on Anchorage; Juneau's Hillary Lindh wins Olympic Silver Medal in downhill skiing; 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway.
1993 Alaska Legislature passes largest capital works appropriation in ten years; a court mandated new reapportionment scheme redraws boundaries of some election districts; Greens Creek Mine near Juneau closes due to low silver, zinc, lead prices; Sitka Pulp Mill announces indefinate suspension of mill operations, affecting 400 workers; Alaska Independence Party Chairman, Joe Vogler, mysteriously disappears.
1994 A federal trial results in a $5 billion dollar verdict in the Exxon Valdez case; Alaska's Tommy Moe brings home the Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing; Joe Vogler's murdered body is discovered buried off Chena Hot Springs Road near Fairbanks, (Vogler was a libertarian advocate for Alaska's cessation from the union); voters defeat the latest proposal to move the Alaska capital away from Juneau; the mental health lands case is decided after years of controversy in the Alaska Supreme Court, determining how the state could use the 1 million acres originally dedicated to funding Alaska's mental health programs.
1995 Canadian fisherman take out their frustrations over the inconclusive U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty talks on an Alaskan ferry; Mark Air, a brief rival to Alaska Airlines, faces bankruptcy while ticket holders are stranded and employees all over the state are laid off; the $267 million Healy Clean Coal Project is launched with a substantial backing by the U.S. Department of Energy; villagers from Alatna return to a newly rebuilt village following fall floods that washed out several Koyukuk communities.
1996 The State of Alaska loses a case regarding the Alaska Statehood Act and the federal government's management of federal lands in Alaska; U.S. Congress lifts the ban on exportation of Alaska crude oil.
1997 High winds and seas caused a Japanese refrigerator ship to go aground near Unalaska, spilling approximately 39,000 gallons of fuel; the Fairbanks Municipal Utilities System was sold to three private companies, ending 50 years of public utility ownership; MAPCO, owner of Alaska's largest oil refinery, is bought by Williams Co. Inc.; Canadian fishermen in Prince Rupert blockade an Alaskan ferry for three days in protest of Alaskan salmon-fishing practices and ferry service to Prince Rupert is disrupted for 19 weeks.
1998 The unemployment rate is at a record low at 5.8%; the moose is adopted as Alaska's official state land mammal; in May, an estimated 4,000 people marched in Anchorage to show solidarity and to bring attention to Native Rights issues; the new Seward SeaLife Center is the western hemisphere's first cold-water marine research facility and includes two floors of public displays; the U.S. Supreme Court in case No. 96-1577 ruled that the approximately 1.8 million acres owned by the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government is not "Indian country."
1999

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race's founder, Joe Redington, Sr., passes away; Edgar Nollner, Sr., the last surviving musher of the 1925 diphtheria serum run to Nome which inspired the Iditarod, passes away; the state's top two oil producers, BP and ARCO, announces their intent to merge; the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks receives $1 million from the Bill Gates Foundation to help with their expansion project. In Anchorage, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a 26-acre cultural park, opens its doors and is expected to attract 130,000 visitors a year.

In September, a proposal to spend Alaska Permanent Fund earnings on state government was soundly rejected by 83% of voters; the state's largest financial institution, the National Bank of Alaska, announced its sale to Wells, Fargo & Co.; derailment of two Alaska Railroad trains in the Susitna River Valley in November and December resulted in jet fuel spills totaling approximately 100,000 gallons and cleanup was hampered by extreme weather and remote terrain.

2000

Along with the rest of the world, Alaskans welcomed the year 2000 with fanfare and firecrackers. Tragedy struck on January 31 when an Alaska Airlines jet crashed near Los Angeles, killing 88 people including Morris Thompson, Interior Alaska Native leader and former BIA director; snowslides stranded dozens of people in Girdwood for nearly a week and avalanche conditions in the area were among the worst in decades; in April, after more than a year of anti-trust investigations by the FTC, an agreement was signed for BP to take over all of ARCO except ARCO Alaska, which was purchased by Phillips Petroleum.

After more than 40 years, the bodies of 133 people who died at the Mt. Edgecumbe TB hospital and were buried in a WWII bunker were returned to their Native villages for burial; Elmer Rasmuson, Anchorage banker and Alaskan philanthropist, died in December; census 2000 results show a state population of 626,932, an increase of 14% from 1990; Alaska becomes the 47th most populated state and the number of square miles per person drops from 1 to approximately .9.

Alaska Facts

State Nick Name: "The Last Frontier" - the name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word "Aleyska," meaning "great land."

State Motto: "North to the Future"

State Capital: Juneau, located in the Southeast region of Alaska, has a population of 33,277 (2015 Estimate of Population, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development)

Alaska Map:

Map of Alaska

Alaska Flag:

Alaska state flag is dark blue with yellow stars in the shape of the big dipper with the North star

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