More than just a tongue twister, Alaska’s Sesquicentennial is a celebration of the state’s sale from Russia to the United States on March 30, 1867. A century and a half ago, the Alaska Treaty of Cession was signed and the territory changed hands for the bargain price of $7.2 million.
In commemoration, several cities are holding a succession of events throughout the year. Alaska’s sale was not without controversy, with particular impact on the Native and Creole people living in the state at the time. In a fitting nod, an event on the actual day of the anniversary is Tlingit Perspective of the Sesquicentennial: A Time to Heal. A highlight of Sitka’s Kick-Off Week, the event will be held at Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi. Its purpose is to honor the Tlingit community with clan leaders, culture bearers, dance performances, and storytelling.
Capping off the Kick-Off Week in Sitka is Music Without Borders, a concert featuring Russian and native musical acts celebrating folk traditions, held at the Sitka Performing Arts Center on April 1. Outside of Sitka, multicultural music continues to ring out: Arctic Lights & Moscow Nights will occur in Juneau on March 31. The concert is orchestrated (get it?) with a similar goal of promoting understanding between cultures.
The celebration continues throughout the state long after the actual anniversary day. From April 21-22, the Kenai Peninsula History Conference will take place in Soldotna at the Kenai River Campus. The public is invited to learn about the peninsula’s blend of Native, Russian, and U.S. traditions through a variety of panels and cultural and educational sessions. These include a book fair, live music from Moscow Nights, and the 1860s Alaska Traveling Exhibit, featuring historical banners about Alaska at the time of the Cession, such as Alaska’s Americanization and the way Americans and Russians took advantage of Native people in pursuit of furs, gold, and fish.
Starting in May, the Lifeways in Interior Alaska in the 1860s Exhibit will be displayed in Fairbanks through October in partnership with the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North. On May 3, the Sitka Speaker’s Series will focus on the Six Saints of Sitka — little-known fact, Sitka has more saints than any other U.S. city!
Fast forward to September and the North to Alaska Road Rally Adventure is coming to town. The Sports Car Club of America’s United States Road Rally Challenge takes place from September 14-17. No previous rally experience is necessary, nor is a four-wheel drive vehicle, just an enthusiasm to explore the roads of Alaska.
This is a big year for The Last Frontier, and the state is turning out to celebrate — if you want to be a part of it, you’ll find an event to suit your interests, whether that means a museum visit, historical conference, folk concert, or road rally.