History of Alaska/Alaska in US Popular Culture (1867-present)
Alaska in the United States Popular Culture (1867-present)
Prudhoe Bay Oil Field
Following the Alaskan Statehood in 1959, the Prudhoe Bay Oil field was discovered on the North Slope of Alaska on March 12, 1968. Through ownership of this oilfield, the Alaskan government could supplement the state economy by claiming payments and taxes from the trade of oil. A trans-Alaska pipeline project was undertaken by the state government for the oil trade to different regions of Alaska. However, the physical geography of the trail and land ownership issues were problematic for the authority to render the project. The issue of land ownership had to be resolved in order to implement the project in that region. The Alaskan lands were granted to multiple agencies in the United States; leaving the Alaskan natives with minimal rights to the land. In a quest to claim the rights to their ancestral lands, Alaskan natives raised this issue perpetually. Eventually, the state government decided to settle the land claims to affix the trans-Alaska pipeline on the trail.
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)
On December 18, 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement act was officially enacted into law by the Congress of the United States, under the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Declaration of this act into the judicial system led to huge alterations of land claimants and monetary payments between the native Alaskans and the government. Congress decided to compensate the native Alaskans for the land seized from them for almost a century. This compensation included an authorization of 400 million acres of land and approximately $965 million dollars. This moment was marked by contentment for native Alaskans as they concurred with the amendments to the bill. In terms of managing the land and monetary funds, ANCSA implemented 12 regional corporations and almost 200 village corporations to account for monetary funds and land.
12 Regional Corporations
Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC)
Representing eight villages, an abundant land of 5 million acres is issued to Arctic Slope Regional Corporation including, one of the world's largest bitumen and coal deposits. An increasing population of 11,000 shareholders has been cited. The main functions of this corporation are oil and gas services, petroleum refining, financial management and communications.
Ahtna corporation owns nearly 1.5 million acres in the Copper River Basin. There is a total of 1500 shareholders in this corporation. The primary focus of the corporation is the diversification and growth, by land, human, and mineral resource management. Most of the work is under the 14 subsidiaries which handle, construction, nature remediation, food service contractors, and janitorial and administrative services.
The Aleut Corporation
Aleut Corporation has issued a settlement of $19.5 million with 71,000 of surface lands and 1.6 million of subsurface estate. A vast sum of 3200 shareholders are enrolled in this corporation. As of now, Aleut corporation monitors and sells sand, gravel, and rocks under its subsurface estate. The main focus of the corporation is federal operations, maintenance contracting, investments in oil and gas, and sales operations.
Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC)
Covering Alaska's Seward Peninsula and eastern regions of Norton Sound is the Bering Straits Native Corporation. A total of 6,300 shareholders are enrolled with nearly 2 million acres of subsurface land owned. Their operations include mining, construction, sales, and tourism.
Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC)
Covering regions of southwest Alaska, Bristol Bay Native Corporation has a total of 9,000 shareholders consisting of Eskimo, Indian, and Aleut shareholders. The corporation is a supporter of Responsible Resource Development. Comprising of 30 operating subsidiaries, the corporation mainly focuses on petroleum, government, oilfield, and construction services.
The Calista Corporation claimed rights to 6.5 million acres of subsurface land, 300,000 acres of surface estate and grossing over $80 million of initial capital by the federal government. The corporation specializes in construction, military, mining, and communications.
Chugach Alaska Corporation
Almost 2,200 shareholders are enrolled in this corporation from Aleut, Indian, and Eskimo heritage. Specializing in various fields, this corporation works on, construction, technology, education, and oil and gas services.
Cook Inlet Region Incorporation (CIRI)
The Cook Inlet Region Incorporation comprises of nearly 7,300 Alaskan shareholders. CIRI has a subsurface land area of 1.3 million acres for its functionality. CIRI focuses on energy development, construction, communication, tourism, and hospitality services. The incorporation included a family of non-profit organizations specializing in health care, education, and housing.
The largest landowner corporation in Alaska is Doyon Limited. The corporation covers an area of 12.5 million acres of land. The corporation has over 20,000 shareholders. Furthermore, it's largest subsidiary is Doyon Drilling, which produces about 35% of their total revenue. The corporation focuses on oil field services, utilities, IT, construction, and tourism.
Koniag corporation claimed a settlement of $24 million by the ANCSA. The settlement included 800 acres of land and 900,000 acres of subsurface area. Currently, they have an enrollment of 3,850 Alutiiq shareholders in their equity sharing program. The corporation specializes in maintenance, technology, manufacturing, and consulting services.
NANA Regional Corporation
The NANA Regional Corporation is recognized as one of the largest corporations in Alaska, surpassing a billion dollars in revenue. The NANA enrolls about 12,000 Inupiat shareholders. This corporation manages surface and subsurface lands of a combined total of 2.2 million acres. The main services they provide are in the areas of construction, communications, hotel development, real estate and logistics services.
Holding on 21,000 tribal shareholders is the Sealaska Corporation. Being a diverse corporation, Sealaska Corporation specializes in financial, construction, technology, fabrication, and forest products.
Alaska is home to some of the largest parks and preserves in the United States, which is the result of many years of work to pass a bill devoted to conservation legislation. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was passed by President Carter, in 1980. It was significant because it provided varying degrees of protection to over one hundred million acres of Alaskan land. When signing the ANILCA, President Carter stated, “We are setting aside for conservation an area of land larger than the state of California.” The ANILCA remains “one of the largest designations of conservation and wilderness in US history.”
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Debate
Debates over federal land policies have been taking place for centuries, with conservationists going against business interests, and national interests going against local interests. The introduction of the ANILCA followed this trend, and while conservationists are supportive of the undeveloped land being protected for future generations, others believe that this protection limits the opportunities for economic development in Alaska. The Alaska Statehood Act of 1958, in combination with the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA), provided 148 million acres of Alaska land to ensure the “development of Alaska's commerce, and its energy resources and transportation systems would be planned for in an orderly fashion”. To have the conservationist satisfied, the ANSCA also provided the opportunity to designate within a specific timeline; eighty million acres for conservation. After almost nine years and many failed attempts, President Carter passed the ANILCA in 1980, increasing Alaska's national park system by over forty-three million acres and “providing national park protection to ten new areas and three existing ones”. The ANILCA also caused controversy between the state and the national government, as it provided rural residents of Alaska with a preferential right to fish and game in times of scarcity. This contradicts the Alaska State Constitution which states that fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use, with no exclusive rights. Despite initial resistance, support for the ANILCA has increased largely due to the growth in tourism. According to the recently released report by Alaska Tourism Industry Association, “a new record was set in the summer of 2016 with over 1.8 million out of state visitors, who spent a total of 1.97 billion dollars in the state.”
Alaska’s Eight National Parks
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is where Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America at 20,310 feet tall, can be found. The park was originally established in 1917 as Mount McKinley National Park, however with the passing of the ANILCA, the park was “incorporated with Denali to establish Denali National Park and Preserve” and is now over six million acres. Given it is one of the few parks accessible by road, it is a popular Alaskan national park. In 1976 the park was designated as an international biosphere reserve, focusing on ecosystem conservation and wise use of national resources.
Gates of the Arctic National Park
Gates of the Arctic National Park is the northernmost national park in the United States and the second largest at 8.4 million acres. The park name came from wilderness advocate Robert Marshall, who visited the area in the 1930s where he saw steep mountains and “named two adjacent peaks the "Gates of the Arctic."”
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park is 3.3 million acres which includes Glacier Bay, which is one of the largest protected biospheres preserves in the world. The landscape that was to become Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was ice-capped when European explorers first reached this corner of the world.
Katmai National Park
In 1912, the eruption of Novarupta was the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. When the National Geographic Society began investigating the eruption zone it lobbied to have the area proclaimed to be a National Monument in 1918. With ANILCA, Katmai National Monument was expanded to become Katmai National Park and Preserve. Notably, Timothy Treadwell, a key Alaskan figure, frequently stated that Katmai National Park was his favourite.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park is the smallest national park in Alaska covering 607,000 acres. Glaciers, waves, and mountains have shaped the park and created habitats for numerous sea animals. The Harding Icefield dominates the park, covering 700 square miles and is nearly a mile high and hundreds of feet deep.
Kobuk Valley National Park
Kobuk Valley National Park is in the Alaskan Arctic and is 1.8 million acres. As Alaska’s most undeveloped national park, it sees fewer tourists than any other park in Alaska. It is most known for its 25 square miles of massive sand dunes, which can reach as high as 100 feet, a relic of the glaciers that ground their way through the land.
Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park is four million acres and is home to the Athabascan people known as Dena’ina, who have lived there for thousands of years. Lake Clark National Park has low attendance and is known as “one of Alaska’s greatest secrets.”
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
With the passing of the ANILCA, the Wrangell Mountains became part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The park is located in south-central Alaska and is 13.2 million acres making it the largest national park and preserve in the United States.
Childhood & Upbringing
Timothy Treadwell, also known as “Grizzly Man”, was an advocate for the environmental protection of grizzly bears. He is widely considered a controversial figure in Alaskan popular culture. During his lifetime, Treadwell contributed to the stereotype of Alaska being a home for survivalist males and he did much for the protection of wildlife. He was born on April 29, 1957, in Long Island New York to Val and Carol Dexter. He attended Connetquot High School in Long Island where he was considered an average student, receiving modest grades and participating in extracurricular sports. Following high school, Treadwell was offered and accepted a diving scholarship to Bradley University in Illinois, which would be the beginning to the events that shaped the grizzly man.
Drug & Alcohol Addiction
Timothy Treadwell’s drug and alcohol addiction originated during his time at Bradley University in Illinois. Timothy began drinking heavily at campus parties and fraternities, and at the age of nineteen, he nearly died due to overdosing on speedballs, which is a mix of cocaine and heroin. In dealing with his drug addiction, Timothy found comfort in nature and wildlife. Treadwell is quoted as stating: “The bears become so inspirational that I gave up the drinking. It was a miracle, an absolute miracle. And the miracle was animals”.
Treadwell’s early passion for wildlife was fostered by his desire to escape what he described as, “the average and boring middle-class lifestyle”. His passion for wildlife began at Bradley University, where he notably jumped off a third-floor dorm balcony, imitating a bear jumping into a river. After studying for two years at Bradley University, Treadwell relocated to Southern California where he met a retired Vietnam Veteran named Terry, who convinced him to journey to Alaska to watch bears, further inspiring Treadwell. He decided that he would go on this trip and it so happens that during this trip, Treadwell was able to fully discovered his passion for bears and camping, changing him into what today is known as the grizzly man.
Following college, Treadwell spent the winter months working as a bartender, and during the summer months, he traveled to Alaska for what became an annual expedition. Treadwell traveled to numerous national parks across Alaska, spending the entire summer months living in the wilderness amongst the bears, Treadwell was quoted as stating that Katmai National Park was his favourite. He often encountered grizzly bears and foxes that frequented Alaskan lands. On his annual expeditions, Treadwell attempted to study and develop unique relationships with grizzly bears. He famously attempted to converse with bears by mimicking their body language, crawling on all fours, and even growling. During these expeditions Treadwell recorded his encounters and interactions with the wildlife and was able to film over 100 hours of footage.
Treadwell was confirmed to have deceased on October 6, 2003, at the age of forty-six. In the summer of 2003, Treadwell visited Katmai National park with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard. Treadwell had scheduled to leave at the end of August but extended his trip by two weeks. By extending his trip, Treadwell risked being attacked by a bear, given it was the time of the season when bears are most aggressive. While exploring Kodiak Island at Katmai National Park, Treadwell and Huguenard decided to set up their campsite near a salmon stream and bear trail. Larry Van Daele, a bear biologist, concluded, “A person could not have designed a more dangerous location to set up a camp”. Treadwell’s last known communication outside the park was on October 5, 2003. The following day, air taxi pilot, Willy Fulton, arrived to pick the couple up from the park but was unable to locate them. Shortly thereafter, the remains of Treadwell and Huguenard were found a short distance from their campsite by park rangers. Treadwell and Huguenard were confirmed to have died from a bear attack. At the site of the attack, a video recorder was recovered which, had been recording during the attack, however it was blank footage. The tape did however record audio of the attack, which brutally illustrates the way in which the couple were unfortunately killed. Treadwell had documented some odd behaviour in a bear, which scientists believe was the animal that killed the couple.
During his Alaskan expeditions, Timothy Treadwell recorded over one hundred hours of video footage. In 2005, Lions Gate Films released a documentary titled Grizzly Man. The documentary was directed by Werner Herzog and highlights some of the more intriguing footage from Treadwell's recordings. The documentary shows the amazing footage which Treadwell was able to take while also focusing on the life of Treadwell himself. There are many novels about Treadwell’s life including Death in the Grizzly Maze, The Grizzly Maze, Grizzly Man, and his own novel, Among Grizzlies. In 2001 Treadwell was a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, where he discussed his trips to Alaskan.
Organizations & Social Cause
Treadwell was the founder of the organization Grizzly People, which seeks to preserve bears and their habitats. The organization funded his annual expeditions and received donations from notable celebrities and brands including Leonardo DiCaprio, and Patagonia.
Alaskan Influence & Public Perception
Timothy Treadwell is often compared to the stereotype of Alaska being a refuge for a male survivalist. Support for Treadwell among Alaskans is mixed. The majority of Treadwell’s support comes from naturalists, who appreciated his ability to survive in the wild. He is respected for traveling with minimal equipment, including his refusal to carry bear spray. While some Alaskans idolize him, others viewed him as a threat to the stereotypical Alaskan lifestyle. Treadwell was known to confront members of the national park service and Alaskan hunters, over national park regulations and Alaskan gun laws. Many Alaskans saw his death as inevitable and that his risk taking actions were eventually going to catch up to him. Throughout his time in the wild it was believed that Treadwell began to become estranged from society and was slowly developing some mental issues from lack of human contact. Today, his actions are frequently debated among Alaskans, with his memorabilia continually sold in auctions.
Tourism in Alaska
The state of Alaska is best known for its tourist attractions by becoming a hotspot for visitors all year long. Tourists who are willing to brave the winter weather are finding that there are various activities to be a part of in the Last Frontier during this less-traveled season. The number of tourists traveling to Alaska has increased drastically in the past decade. Vanessa Orr, a freelance journalist, highlights in her article, "Hot spots in the cold of winter: there's always something to do in the great land" and also said that approximately 260,000 out-of-state visitors were expected to travel to Alaska between October of 2005 and April of 2006, and thousands of more in-state residents are expected to travel between cities for special events. As well, Alaska has been attracting international visitors, targeting people from places that do not have as much snow. Orr also explained in her article that Japanese tourists make the majority of the market, with between eight thousand to ten thousand visitors in 2005. This had an economic impact of approximately $1 million.
Alaska was able to increase the number of tourist visitors in their state because of a new market interest for winter sports activities. Author Peg Stomierowski, outlines this shift in her article "Winter getaways: banish cabin fever blues and play in the state". In the article she quotes Nance Larsen, vice president of communication and marketing programs for the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau, who explains bidding for and bringing such large-scale events such as the U.S. Alpine Championships and Junior Nordic Olympic Trials, has been found to boost winter tourism as it tends to draw contingencies of athletes, coaches, and families to competitions. As a result, Alaska has become a symbol for winter sport and adventure travel through activities such as alpine skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
The harsh weather patterns in Alaska generates increased tourism due to the winter cultural events that the state annually hosts. A recent study by the Travel Industry Association of America indicated that nearly 93 million Americans attended at least one cultural, arts, heritage, historic activity or generic event while traveling in the past year. This has worked in Alaska’s favour because their biggest events held every year are deeply rooted in the states history. Two of the most famous historical and cultural events in Alaska are the Fur Rendezvous Festival and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Fur Rendezvous Festival
The Fur Rendezvous festival was traditionally a 10-day winter celebration, however, has now been extended to a 17-day winter festival, which takes place on February 20 to March 7. This is one of the largest winter festivals in North America. Locals termed the festival "Fur Rondy," and it supports and celebrates the beginning of the end of winter. The Fur Rendezvous began as a winter sports tournament focused mainly on hockey and basketball, but it has developed into something much bigger culturally. Today, the winter festival features many popular activities, such as the Fur Rondy Grand Parade, snowshoe softball, ice bowling, Fur Rondy Melodrama, snow sculpture competitions, and the Miners and Trappers Ball.
The Rendezvous carnival started in 1935. The purpose of the carnival was to bring people together in the winter. Since the fur trade was the second-leading industry in Alaska at the time, it became an important part of the festival. It provided a golden opportunity for trappers and buyers to meet in Anchorage to ply their trade and cut out the middleman. Trapping contests were held, and prizes were awarded for the longest fox, the best fox, and the finest ermine pelts. Thus, the festival gained its name “Fur Rendezvous” because it was a meeting place for people to buy and sell fur.
Today, Fur Rondy allows for various aspects of Native culture and art to become apparent to the general population. The Charlotte Jensen Native Arts Market, held each year during Rondy, draws Alaska Native artists and craftsmen from all over the state, including places as remote as St. Lawrence Island, Mekoryuk, and Shishmaref. In the Diamond Center, tables are covered with intricate and inventive pieces including Alaska Native beadwork, carvings, and clothing. An article posted in the journal Indian Life said, "Fur Rendezvous puts Alaska Native Art, music and culture at center stage." It explains how visitors can find treasures crafted from a multitude of materials, including hand-carved walrus-ivory sculptures, sealskin hats, beaded moose-hide purses and colourful cotton kuspuks which is a traditional Alaska Native garment. The Fur Rendezvous festival not only celebrates the winter season, but also its Native history.
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race takes place annually on March 6 during the Fur Rendezvous festival. The Journal Child Life posted an article called "Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race“ and stated that the race brings out visitors and locals alike to catch a glimpse of veteran and rookie mushers, their dog handlers and, of course, the stars of the event, the dogs. This world-famous sporting event is one of the most difficult races in the world.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an important tribute to Alaskan history. Iditarod was once a bustling city of 10,000 people. In 1898, gold was discovered in the Yukon, and Iditarod grew and flourished. The Iditarod Trail became an important pathway. Dog sled teams hauled mail and gold back and forth from Anchorage, Alaska. Once the gold ran out, the trail grew over, and Iditarod turned into an empty town. In 1925, there was a diphtheria epidemic that threatened to wipe out the Nome Alaska Native population. The only supply of the cure (antitoxin serum) was in Anchorage, which was 1,100 miles away. The fastest form of transportation was by dog sled and volunteer mushers carried the serum to Nome in record time, ending the epidemic. The mushers and their dogs became national heroes. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is in memory of men and women who risked their lives to save the others in their tribe.
Over time, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race also became a public event to get through tough winters. In 1973, the Nome tribe went through another epidemic, cabin fever. Tom Riordon outlines in his article, "Iditarod: Boredom Buster Turned Global Event." that cabin fever was so bad that there was an attempted suicide every four days with successful suicides every 11 days. As a result, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was born to brighten up spirits. To this day, Alaska highlights this tradition in its promotion for winter tourism in the United States.
History of the Iditarod Trail
Trails among the interior of Alaska have been used throughout its history to access many isolated towns and mines. In 1908, gold was struck near the small town of Iditarod, from which the trail would someday get its name. By 1910, the Alaskan Road Commission had cleared the pathways and officially dubbed the trail the "Seward to Nome mail trail". The trail functioned for over a decade as a passageway and carrier route for gold and other commodities, as well as a new way to access goods in distant towns within the constantly growing territory. Since it was isolated, the most effective means of transportation along the Iditarod trail was sled dogs. This changed in 1924 when the use of bush pilots in the import and export of goods and mail made the trail less popular means of transport and with the closing of most of the mines by 1930, it left the trail mostly deserted. It was not until the increase in popularity of Sled Dog races in the 1960's that the trail was brought back to its former glory.
In popular culture, many people know about the Iditarod trail because of the famous story of Balto the dog. Balto is well known for being the dog that lead the last 50 miles of the 1925 Serum run that was needed to bring a necessary antidote to the people of Nome. In the winter of 1924-25, a severe breakout of diphtheria spread among the people residing in the northern town of Nome. The town had just recently requested more vaccines to replace their expired ones, but the shipment was not received until after the shipping routes had closed. The only viable option to get the antidote to Nome was through the thousand miles of the Iditarod trail. When diphtheria was finally diagnosed in the town the resident doctor sent out a telegram to both impose a quarantine as well as request assistance in acquiring the necessary serum. Without this antidote, it is understood that most of the 10,000 residents of Nome and the surrounding towns would not survive. The shipment was passed from one dog sled team to another along the Iditarod trial until it finally reached Nome in time to save most of the population. The Iditarod Sled Dog race is held every year not only to maintain the sport of Sled Dog races but also to commemorate all the lives that were saved because of the trail and the mushers that braved the harsh winter to save thousands.
The Beginning of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race
The first sled dog race along the Iditarod trail was held in 1967, and was hosted by Joe Reddington Sr and Dorothy Paige in the hopes of renewing the interest in sled dog racing. The original race was only 9 miles of the trail, but when the official Iditarod Sled Dog race began in 1973, the race had grown and was now an incredible 1,150 miles with over 70 teams competing. The two routes, north, and south, have at least 23 checkpoints where the competitors can stop and rest from 2 minutes to 24 hours. These stops, including one in the town of Iditarod itself, brings the racers a first-hand look at the more isolated groups of people living in Alaska. This sense of adventure and personal betterment leads many to Alaska in sensation seeking tourism. Traveling has become a sort of "Modern Pilgrimage", as it was first described by MacCanel in 1976, and there is no better sense of man versus nature in our current world than in the cold wilderness of Alaska.
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race Today
The current race along the Iditarod trail occurs every March, but the planning behind it can take a whole year. The race itself costs $4 Million USD per year to operate and most of that money comes from sponsorship, there are many sponsors of the event, but Anchorage Chrysler Dodge Ram is a crowd favourite because of their donations toward the twice-yearly raffles. On top of any advertisement or monetary endorsements the dealership makes, they also give away two Dodge Ram trucks to the Dog Sled race raffle, where tickets to enter cost $100 each. The race has continued to grow and evolve over time, as technology has advanced, the ability to gain satellite access to remote areas has become easier. Telecom provider GCI has been a big sponsor of the Iditarod Race by giving away $3000 worth of golden nuggets to the first competitor to reach the town of Iditarod. This is just one more example of how this race tries to maintain its ties to the culture and history of Alaska. There are some sponsors from all parts of Alaska joining in on the state's largest sporting event in the hopes of creating a name for themselves, but some others are attempting to benefit the people of the state rather than just themselves. Donlin Gold is a mine located close to the town of Iditarod, that has many roots in the history and development of the area. Every year Donlin Gold is the competitions biggest supporter, helping out with staffing the checkpoints, sponsoring some of the mushers, and also making the effort to help sponsor school trips and school run food drives. This race is often used to help encourage the student's willingness to learn about subjects such as math and science through the context of the Sled Dog race and the world that revolves around it. The exploration of the north is often romanticized in literature and the desire to escape a monotonous life is not uncommon for many people in the western world. The Iditarod Sled Dog race combines adventure and sightseeing with the excitement of braving the wilderness of a territory that is portrayed as dangerous and unknown. Being a part of 'the last frontier' rhetoric, Alaska has not lost its reputation for being unexplored and dangerous. These ideas make marketing for the Iditarod race easy to understand. Winning the race is a goal for some, but completing the race is an accomplishment for anyone.
The scenic wilderness of Alaska has attracted numerous filmmakers and viewers throughout the years. Thus leading to there being an abundance of movies exploring the unknown mysteries of the 'wild west' of the north. Common themes of these movies include the fight against nature, animals popular in the North, for example, wolves and bears, and the Gold Rush. All these themes, commonly idealized, especially when speaking of the gold rush. Many of the films in the 1920s portrayed the idealized life of a miner as someone who worked all day, made a good fortune and then went to the saloon in the evening to drink with the women there. The Native Americans have also played a large role in shaping Alaskan films. All of these films have given their viewers an intense view of Alaska and its beautiful landscape.
The silent film, The Gold Rush, made in 1925, featured the famous actor Charlie Chaplin. The movie was based in the late 1800s and is said to mirror a group of pioneers called the Donner Party, who attempted to trek all the way to California, where each man in the movie is searching out their own fortune. The movie brings a comedic side to the harsh landscape of Alaska and the frontier like living conditions. This film captures a common theme of the gold rush and the culture behind it, that is in many Alaskan based films. The movie is seen as one of Chaplin's finest and was nominated for two Academy Awards.
Runaway Train was released in 1985. The action thriller is about two escaped prisoners in the rough Alaskan wilderness and ends up stuck on a driverless train tearing across the Alaskan backwoods. The movie starred Jon Voight as Oscar "Manny" Manheim a merciless bank robber and Eric Roberts as Buck McGeehy a younger prisoner who is willing to help Manny escape. After an altercation with another inmate, Manny decides that he must leave earlier than planned and the two break out in the harsh Alaskan winter. Both actors Vioght and Roberts were nominated for academy awards for their performances, with Vioght taking home the award.
The Disney company has made a few popular movies based in Alaska such as the movie White Fang, which is based on the book written by Jack London. The movie began screening in 1991 and made just under thirty-five million in the box-office. The film shows Alaska's unforgiving frozen wasteland and a bond between the young man Jack Conroy (played by Ethan Hawke) and the part wolf, part dog, called White Fang. Jack traveled to Alaska to be part of the gold rush as many people did at that time. White Fang, who is a young pup, has to learn how to navigate the frozen wilderness alone. A Native American tribe helps brings Jack and White Fang together and they learn to trust each other and form a deep bond between man and animal. The Native American from Alaska can also be seen in this movie depicted through the Native tribe that also assists in giving guidance to the pair.
Since the movie was so successful Disney made the second movie in 1994, White Fang Two: Myth of the White Wolf. This time the movie portrayed a young prospector named Henry Casey (played by Scott Bairstow) living in Alaska with Jack Conroy's beloved wolfdog, White Fang. Henry is taking care of Jack's claim of land while Jack is in San Francisco. Adventure ensues through the thick Alaskan forests when the pair cross paths with the Native American tribe in need of help from the 'White Wolf'. Similar to the first movie, the Native American Chief provides spiritual guidance to Henry and sets him on the right path, which is a common theme in similar films. The Native American culture shown in these movies has had a large part in shaping the outside world's view of them and their life in Alaska. Another common theme of this movie as well as others is that the movies explore the Alaskan gold rush and its effect on man's greed. The second theme shows both large scale of mining and the sifting for gold.
After the massive environmental oil spill of the Exxon Valdez in 1989, On Deadly Ground was released in 1994 using this environmental catastrophe to create an environmental action movie. The movie stars Steven Seagal as Forrest Taft an environmentalist and oil rig fire expert who uncovers a dangerous money saving plot by oil company Aegis Oil, which could result in a massive environmental catastrophe. Taft must battle the oil companies mercenaries and stop Aegis Oil from devastating the Alaskan wild. Michael Caine also stars in this film as the corrupt oil company owner. Though the movie found little critical success the film is extremely unique and the storyline is exclusive to Alaska.
One of the most popular animated films in the late 1990s was Balto, which came to theaters in 1995. It is the tale of a great sled dog from one of Alaska's most portrayed towns in film, Nome, and his race against time and nature. This young wolfdog sets out to help the town's sick by assisting a dog sled team in bringing back the vaccine for the diphtheria epidemic after the team gets lost. This movie is loosely based off of the real sled dog named Balto, who ran the 1925 serum run, however, he was not a hybrid in the true events. The movie was so widely popular that Pixar made two additional movies; Balto II: Wolf Quest in 2000 as well as Balto III: Wings of Change in 2004. This film followed many of the common themes that we see in films about Alaska. Just as White Fang and White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf, we see a connection with nature through spirits and spiritual guides. There are also common animals from the north being portrayed, the main one being the wolfdog.
Two years after the release of Balto, the movie The Edge came to theaters in 1997. Two men have to fight for their lives against Alaska's harsh wilderness and against all odds after their plane crashes. An educated billionaire, played by Anthony Hopkins, and a photographer, played by Alec Baldwin, must work together and put their differences aside in order to beat mother nature's harshest obstacles and make it out alive. The unlikely crew even comes face to face with one of Alaska's most deadly predators, the grizzly bear, who consistently tests their will to survive. Since then more movies, and even some tv shows based on Alaska have been produced.
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rushes that took place in Alaska received a lot of media attention and were often the centre of attention for television. Several movies and television shows were based on this notion. Klondike was an American television show set during the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush in Skagway, Alaska. The show showcased actors Ralph Taeger and James Coburn. The show was ultimately canceled because it did not have enough viewership.
The Spoilers is a novel written by Rex Beach that is based on real events of the Nome, Alaska Gold Rush. It was the best-selling novel in 1906 and was adopted into a play, and later a film that was released in 1942. John Wayne, whose Hollywood career began in the 1920s, became a major cultural figure in the twentieth century and continues to be an American icon today. In The Spoilers movie, John Wayne played Roy Glenister, a young man returning to Nome Alaska from overseas in Europe. After getting on his friend's bad side, his character ends up getting into some trouble with the local gold miners and their fortunes. This movie portrays the idea of the 'Wild West' of the North perfectly. John Wayne's character, as in most of his movies, fights to get the girl and the gold. By having this movie placed in the 1900s during the Nome gold rush it gives an idealized image of the conditions in Alaska and the gold rush at the time. John Wayne also starred in the hit movie “North to Alaska” where he played the role of Sam McCord. The plot is based on the gold rush of the 1890s. Wayne’s character Sam and his partner George strike gold and must protect it. Sam brings a prostitute back to their shack instead of George’s wife, who had married somebody else. Country singer Johnny Horton, best known for his historical narratives, sings the movie title’s hit song. “North to Alaska” which hit number one on US billboards on January 9, 1961. Unfortunately, Johnny Horton was killed in a car accident just before the premiere of the movie. The song was played everywhere, including Alaska’s own KYAK radio station. Mike Pereira, Former Vice President of officiating for the National Football League, recalled hearing the song in Alaska. He said it was very catchy and captured the romantic ideal of independence and the quest for gold. Moreover, Horton received four gold guitar awards from Columbia Records in the 1950s. Each award honours 250,000 sales from his hit singles, including “North to Alaska”. North to Alaska (Johnny Horton)
Impacts of the Gold Rush
Gold Rush In Alaska In 1897, people were literally and figuratively rushing to the northwest territories of Alaska and the Yukon, in the hopes that they would strike gold . When they got there what welcomed them was harsh climates with even harsher living conditions that consisted of limited food sources and little means of health care . These rough circumstances would lead to a very distinct character of the mining people, that being rough, tough and highly risk taking. They did not know it but those who immigrated in search for gold would forever change the lands they settled, the lives of those who were already living there, and those who would be living there generations after.
When asked to picture the gold rush, majority of people have an image in their mind of a bunch of crazy old men with long beards panning bucket after bucket of dirty in order to find nuggets of gold. Who at the end of the day retire to saloons filled with criminals, drunks and vigilantes. The one thing people do not considered is the determinantal affects that saloons and the irresponsible habits of miners had on the Native American people. Besides, forcing Indian people further off their land, reducing the amount of resources they had, and destroying local forestry, settlers had a negative impact through the introduction of alcohol. As the twentieth century came near, prospectors, along with large quantities of liquor and abusive drinking habits settled in Alaska. It is said that during this time ships carrying freights would more likely to supply settlers with alcohol then they would food.
Natives were largely exposed to alcohol through trade, but learned unhealthy drinking habits, like binge drinking, from saloons . This can now clearly be seen in modern day Alaska, who ranks sixth of all the American states in binge drinking, which is having five drinks or more on at least one occasion in the last month and eighth in heavy drinking, having two or more drinks daily for the past thirty days . Alaska's alcohol mortality rate, at 21 per 100,000 population, is three times the U.S. rate, where Alaska Natives is nearly ten times the U.S. rate . The misuse of alcohol is also a common denominator for a wide range of chronic social ills, including sexual assault, child abuse and suicide. Alaska's suicide rate is about twice as high as the U.S rate; the suicide rate among non-Native Alaskans is 53 percent above the U.S. rate, while the Natives is 3.6 times the U.S. rate .
Not until the 1980's when research and studies were conducted did people realize how bad the alcohol problem was in Alaska, which is when the native villagers and Alaskan people decided it was time to make a change to better the people. Although there would be some struggle in doing so, by the early 21st century around seventeen Alaska villages banned the sale of alcohol, seventy-five banned sale and importation of alcohol, and thirty-three banned possession all together . All of this initiatives have proven to reduce alcohol abuse, and more improvements are still being made today, but the problem still persists.
To this day the gold rush is still alive in Alaskan society, and can be seen in many different ways. Although Alaska is not in the same place as it was in the 1800’s the frontier still holds on to some of the same values and beliefs held during those times. This can been seen in the choice of sports to play such as white water rafting, hunting, and dog sled races, all of which are very rugged and competitive sports . The modern people still hold the same competitive spirt of those who were trying to find more gold then their miner counterpart. The gold rush created entrepreneurs through the opening of saloons which most of the time made more money than those who panned. This can still clear be seen today, and has even been turned into a theory, called the Klondike theory, which states those born in places where the gold rush was rampant have a competitive and creative drive greater than elsewhere . For example, Bill Gates, the world’s richest man was born in raised in Seattle a place that thrived during the gold rush. The gold rush also opened the door for people to create new businesses which have survived till this day, such as Nordstrom . Beliefs held by settlers at that time can still be seen. There is still a general disliking for higher authority such as governments, native people are still not regarded as they should be, and there is abuse of women. All of these have traits have lessened since 1860 but the presence of them can be followed throughout Alaskan history from then till now.
Alaska has started to embrace this history, they have opened national parks where people can take the same mountainous paths that used to be used to mine, parks such as Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park . People have tried many times to claim this land but the nation realizes it historical importance and it remains protected. Tourists who go to Alaska can now take part in many adventurous activities and cultural events some of which are based off the gold rush, for example, in 1998, the nation celebrated the centennial of the gold rush . Even though they are is a small tourist market in Alaska due to cooler temperature, the state is still trying to develop cultural attracts for visitors to enjoy. Mining culture is still alive today and can be found in cartoon after cartoon, even in reality TV such as gold rush, edge of Alaska and Klondike, all of which are based on modern day mining in Alaska.
The 20th Century
Movies were made to best suit the media's interest in order to gain attention and make a profit. In the 20th century, there were more thriller and horror movies made as there was increased interest. The movie Insomnia is a highly dramatic thriller film that was released in 2002 by the Warner Brothers. The movie takes place in an Alaskan town and starred popular actors at the time including Robin Williams and Al Pacino. The movie examines the psychological battle between Pacino, an LAPD officer battling insomnia and Williams playing a sensitive, strained loner with a quick temper. In the film, he consistently uses a coolly compressed demeanor to express suppressed evil. A reviewer stated that Williams failed to show the necessary emotional and psychic turbulence of the character, and consequently held the picture back. The film utilized the unique perpetual daylight in the Alaskan summers to further Al Pacino’s battle with insomnia. The movie brought in approximately sixty-seven million dollars at the box office. Insomnia was a remake of the Norwegian film and was directed by Christopher Nolan, one of the highest grossing directors in history and this movie showcases his distinctive talent perfectly.
One of the more critically acclaimed movies set in Alaska is Into the Wild, which was released in 2007. The film illustrates the travels of Christopher McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch, and his time spent living his dream of living alone in the vast wilderness of Alaska. The movie gained critical acclaim through break taking photography of the uncharted Alaskan wildness and its ability to bring to life the truly remarkable story. The Sean Penn directed film was based on the John Krakauer book and received a nomination for two Academy Awards.
A more recent movie that was filmed in Alaska was “The Proposal” that came out in 2009. The movie features Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, two famous actors in this century. The movie brought in close to 164 million dollars at the box office, and was given several awards, including “People’s Choice Award for Favorite Comedic Movie”. Around the same time as this, the best-selling author Nora Roberts’ novel “Northern Lights” was made into a movie in 2009 and featured award winner Leann Rimes, Eddie Cibrian, and Golden Globe and Emmy award nominee Rosanna Arquette. The novel’s setting is in Alaska where a policeman relocates in hopes of starting a new life and falls in love. The novel is considered a consumer favorite and has approximately three hundred million copies in print.
In 2013, The Grey was released, which was an action-adventure movie set in Alaska. The movie shows the struggles of a group of oil rig workers trying to stay alive after their plane crashes in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness. With little supplies and unbearable weather, the group must try and get to safety all the while being stalked by a pack of man-eating grey wolves. The movie stars Liam Neeson, as he fights to lead the group to civilization and keep the hungry wolves at bay.
Recently, the desire to film in Alaska has amplified. It has become increasingly popular for non-fiction television shows that capture the world’s scenic beauty, Alaskan personalities, and drama behind survival stories. Alaska pulls in viewers through one's interest in natural history and Alaska's extremes. Often, television shows illustrate the way of life in Alaska and this can be quite intriguing to viewers who do not live there because there are drastic differences in their worlds. They are fascinated by these differences which make for good television, who know little of the state. For example, “The Deadliest Catch” is filmed in Alaska and shows the real-life events of capturing mass amounts of fish and the risks that come with it. Furthermore, “NAPA’s North to Alaska”, starring National Football League player Larry Csonka, is entering its fifteenth season and was one of the first reality shows to capitalize on the fact that people do not get bored of Alaska and the romance and excitement that goes along with it. In 2009 National Geographic aired Alaskan State Troopers, which follows the day-to-day life of Alaskan State troopers and the dangers and difficulties they face. The show is able to use the incredible landscapes of Alaska and extreme weather conditions to display the unique situations that the troopers face. Alaskan State Troopers also displays the darker side of life in Alaskan and some of the struggles which people deal with. Also, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” is a reality television show that captures the life of the former Governor of Alaska. Palin was the governor from 2006 until 2009. She also has a documentary about her life called “The Undefeated”, as well as several books. Controversially, Alaska’s residents hold a different view of Alaska than the one portrayed through Palin’s reality television show. Alaskan’s believe that half of Palin’s adventures are guided trips aimed at mass market tourists. They also are disappointed that it does not show her doing everyday activities such as gutting caribou and setting a gill net on her own.
Governor of Alaska
Sarah Palin is an American politician and author. She took office as the ninth Governor of Alaska on December 4th, 2006, serving from 2006 until her eventual resignation in 2009. Palin became Alaska’s first female governor, and the youngest governor in Alaskan history at the age of 42. As governor, Palin vowed her top priority would be to revitalize the state's economy through workforce, transportation, and infrastructure developments. In her State, of the State Address on January 15, 2008, Palin preached economic development stating “we can and must continue to develop our economy because we cannot and must not rely so heavily on federal government earmarks. Instead, let us power up and produce for Alaska and America.” Governor Palin was also well known for implementing large cuts to the capital budget during her time in office, and for reducing state spending where possible.
As part of Palin’s campaign to develop a strong economy, she signed Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share (ACES) which included a net tax on oil profits, and provide incentives for oil companies to develop operations in Alaska. ACES provided protection for producers when oil prices were low on the market, all the while protecting the interests of the people of Alaska as well. The passing of ACES led to economic success in the state with a record number of oil industry jobs being created. Transparency and ethics reform was also central to Palin’s governorship and belief in open and honest government. Governor Palin fought and signed for sweeping bipartisan ethics legislation, improved disclosure laws, and improved executive and legislative branch ethics laws as part of House Bill 109.
Palin’s popularity differed dramatically over her years as governor. Her approval rating ranged from as high as 93% in May of 2007 to as low as 54% in May of 2009. Following Palin’s vice president selection by running-mate and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, she received increased media attention and scrutiny from across America. A study written by James E. Campbell has stated that the choice of Palin initially energized the conservative base at the Republican convention, noting however, that Palin’s campaign interviews which followed afterward were widely regarded as a series of disasters by the public, and by the national media. This same study also suggests that the selection of the Alaskan governor to the presidential campaign contributed to McCain’s gradual plunge in the polls over time, as well as to Palin’s plunging of approval rating as well.
Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska on July 26, 2009, resulting in a vast array of criticism from the media, and from her political opponents.
2008 Vice-Presidential Campaign
Upon Sarah Palin’s vice presidential selection by Republican running-mate John McCain on August 29, 2008, for the 2008 United States Presidential election, Sarah Palin received increased media attention as a rather “unknown figure” in American politics. Compared to Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin received significantly more coverage in the media, and as a controversial figure, she received more scrutiny and criticism as well. A large percentage of Americans outside of Alaska was unfamiliar with Palin and her beliefs and politics, however, studies have shown that the coverage of Palin in the media largely did not shed light on the area, and instead mostly focused on her personality and trivial topics. The popular magazine, Newsweek, devoted more than half (58.2%) of its coverage on Palin to discussions of her childhood, family, physical appearance, and personality. In contrast, only 11.9% of coverage was focused on her qualifications for office, legislative experience, and understanding of the two major political issues occurring during the national political campaign -- the war in Iraq, and the nation’s economic crisis.
Critics of Palin, both Republican and Democrat, were quick to point out her lack of experience with domestic and foreign politics during campaigning. The Republican Party, however, cited her experience, success, and popularity as Governor of Alaska as sufficient experience and justification for their nomination of Palin to hold the office of vice president.
Public Image and Personality
Sarah Palin’s popularity allowed her to represent Alaskan politics on a national scale, bringing attention to the state and its political climate, a subject many Americans were previously ignorant of.
Palin’s personality and strong religious beliefs received heavy criticism and attention from the national media. she was very open about her Christian life in public, her pro-life stance on the subject of abortion was a widely discussed topic during the 2008 presidential election. Palin’s beliefs proved controversial and drew in criticism from organizations such as the National Organization For Women (NOW) stating that “not every woman supports women’s rights.” Palin’s religious beliefs proved controversial multiple times throughout the campaign. In an October 2008, interview with CBN’s David Brody, Palin stated that she would support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the United States, breaking with running mate McCain’s position on the issue.
Palin’s popularity as a public figure also led to the creation of parodies and satire based upon her character. During the 2008 presidential election, the sketch comedy television show Saturday Night Live aired several sketches parodying Sarah Palin, mainly poking fun at her mannerisms and political beliefs. However, the mocking portrayals of Palin on Saturday Night Live also turned some of her religious beliefs into a liability for the Republican Party. Palin was portrayed by actress and SNL writer Tina Fey. The sketches were well received by critics and were widely popular and Fey reprised her role as the then Governor of Alaska several times during the 2008 Presidential election, and has continued to portray Palin as recently as January 2016.
Palin published her personal and political memoir Going Rogue: An American Life on November 17th, 2009, which became a New York Times #1 bestseller for six weeks after release, however, the book itself received mixed reviews. Furthermore, Palin has been known to use many memorable quotes throughout her lifetime. She has been quoted as stating: "We say keep your change, we'll keep our God, our guns, our constitution", "Folks, this government isn't too big to fail, it's too big to succeed", "I love those hockey moms. You know what they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is? Lipstick".