Alaksa Map, Getty Images, 2017

Natural Resources

Alaska’s mining industry produces petroleum, natural gas, gold, zinc, silver, sand, and gravel.  Alaska first discovered oil and natural gas in 1968 at Prudhoe Bay.  Shortly after, gold was found in 1896 in Yukon, Alaska.  Later in the 1960’s, zinc was found in Red Dog Creek, and silver was found in 1987 at Green Creek's Mine.  Alaska’s oil fields have produced over 18 billion barrels of oil since their discovery. The oil and natural gas industry accounts for one-fourth of employment and one-half of the Alaskan economy and pays over $3.1 billion dollars worth of taxes every year.

Natural Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, Bureau of Land Management

Oil discovered in Alaksa, 1968, Department of Energy Images

Commercial Fishing in Alaska, early 20th century, alaska.gov


Alaska commenced its commercial fishing industry during the 1800's.  It is one of the most abundant fishing regions in the world, producing about 60% of the nation's commercial fisheries, including cod, crab, flounder, and salmon.  Alaska is also known for its well managed, sustainable, fishing industry.  Beginning in 1959, sustainable fishing has insured the future success of the industry.  Alaska’s diplomatic trade with Japan, China, Europe, and Canada is noteworthy as it produces more than $5 billion in economic activity every year and provides over 50,000 jobs connected with fisheries.

Alaska's successes, Chronicling America, Library of Congress,  1903 


Alaska modern day tourism, 2006, Travelpulse.images 

Alaska's local businesses depend heavily on tourism to make money.  Alaskan tourism started in 1880 with the development of a cruise line.  Alaska attracts approximately 1.1 million tourists every year, increases the cruise market by 7%, the airline industry by 1%, the highway market by 13%, and brings more than $126 million in state revenue. 

Gold Rush

Beginning in 1896, The Klondike Gold Rush played an important role in persuading many people that the Alaskan Purchase was a positive decision.  After gold was discovered in Yukon, Alaska, the state’s population grew as people traveled to find gold.  The physical conditions of the Yukon were not ideal and communication was difficult; however, 30,000 miners would move to Alaska by 1898, greatly changing the identity of the state and making many people view the Purchase of Alaska as a success.

Alaskan ships leaving during Gold rush, The Times, 1899

Klondike Gold Rush, 1899, History.com images


Thirteen-year old Benny Benson standing with his winning design for the Alaska state flag in 1927. A contest was held to help encourage support for statehood. Alaska Digital Archives

Natives in Alaska, 1783, alaskamagazine.images 

The Alaskan native people were mainly the Inuits, Youpik, Athabascan, Unangan, and Tlingit when Russian explorers arrived to claim land in 1741.  About 100,000 people were living in Alaska before Russia claimed the land as their own.  Though a small number of Russians were sent to claim the land, they overpowered the natives using cruel acts, such as taking the children of the leaders.  The Yukon native people were exposed to new diseases, such as typhoid fever, by the Yukon Gold Rush, which led to many deaths.

 In the end, the native population was about half the amount they had started with by the time of the United States’ purchase.  When the U.S. bought Alaska, native people were not considered American citizens, until much later in 1924 when the Indian Citizenship Law was passed.  During that time, the native people had no rights, they could not vote, own property, or file mining claims.  In the 1860’s, missionary societies and the Bureau of Indian Affairs tried to eradicate the native people's languages, music, dance, religion, art, and lifestyles.  Later in 1971, President Nixon seized 44 million acres of federal land and gave it, along with one billion dollars to Alaska's native people.  Today, Alaska has a population of 740,000; of which 120,000 are indigenous to Alaska. ​​​​​​​