Is Alaska Really A State?   7 comments

Alaska has always had an uneasy relationship with the federal government. Even in the Territorial Days, we were prone to complain, rabble-rouse and throw food. We had some good reasons. The federal government bought Alaska for 2 cents an acre, then sold the inhabitants (Native and non-Native) to big business cartels. A big cartel “owned” the fishing industry, another “owned” the forests, still another “owned” gold mining … copper … the shipping lines … etc., etc., etc. The people who did the hard work rarely saw a real benefit from it. Growing up here in Fairbanks, I knew only one adult who had gotten well-off (rich would be an exaggeration) gold mining. I knew a lot of laborers, store clerks and tool-pushers who’d gold mined “back when” and now worked for one of the big companies that owned Alaska. The reason became clear as I grew up. They didn’t own the land they mined.

Statehood was not a horribly controversial idea, except that many Alaskans wanted to become a real state and not this pseudo-state-frozen-banana-republic that the federal government insisted upon. We wanted to break the power of the cartels and saw statehood as a way to remove the federal government from that relationship, allowing the people of Alaska to be at the negotiating table instead of our DC “papa” who never seemed to have our interests at heart. Growing up, I didn’t know many Alaskans who claimed to have voted FOR statehood, but somehow it passed twice. Most of the adults said the military swung the vote. Could be. The military and their wives accounted for a quarter of the population. It’s usually against the law for the military to vote in a plebecite, so maybe those votes were manipulated. It’s hard to know 50 years after the fact. It’s also possible that a lot of people voted for statehood when they didn’t really understand what they were voting for. They thought they were voting for a grown-up state status instead the neutered one they agreed to. Maybe later they didn’t want to admit they’d made a stupid mistake.

After the first vote, Congress rejected our application because they wanted us to structure the state a certain way. We complied. The Alaska State Constitution is a marvelous mix of the US Constitution and that of a socialist utopia. The federal government owns more than 60 percent of the ground in Alaska (an area larger than the state of Texas if consolidated). By virtue of its widespread, unconsolidated nature, the federal government controls access to over 80 percent of the land in Alaska. The State of Alaska and the Native corporations hold most of the rest. Only 3% of the land in Alaska can ever be in private hands (not counting Natiive allotments, which are not transferrable). Currently, less than 1% of the land in Alaska is privately owned. At the time of Statehood, the State was given 1.8 million acres and promised in the Statehood compact that we would receive a 90% royalty on all development on federal lands, but since President Carter used the Antiquities Act to lock up about 1/3 of all the land in Alaska there have been almost no royalty payments and much of the State’s lands are blocked by federal lands and BLM works hard to prevent access.

Needless to say, Alaskans talk about secession — a lot. Most of us don’t want war and we recognize that we’d be in big trouble if the federal government imposed a food embargo on us, so mostly it’s talk, but it’s heartfelt talk. We’re prevented from growing an economy by federal land and environmental policies and the oil on state lands is running out. What is a state to do? We don’t have the option of North Dakota or Texas where private landowners can lease to oil companies. The congressional Statehood Compact does not permit Alaskans to own their subsurface rights. If I find oil/gold/rare earth minerals on my land, it belongs to the State of Alaska — not me. The State of Alaska is required to manage that resource for the maximum benefit of the entire population of the state, so they would compensate me for the surface value of my land (valued at $20,000) and send me on my way. I’d see my oil back in a Permanent Fund Dividend of $800. Meanwhile, a big oil cartel would make millions or billions or trillions.

Has much really changed since Statehood?

And, they wonder why Alaska might want to leave the States United.

Posted September 16, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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7 responses to “Is Alaska Really A State?

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  1. This is very interesting. May I ask what part of Alaska you live in?

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  2. When you have to leave the country to get to the next state, it sure feels like Alaska is not part of the US.

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  3. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak and commented:

    I’ve been in conversation with a blog visitor about why I think secession is a good idea not just for Alaska, but for other countries as well. This explains it pretty well. The visitor doesn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to accept a little tyranny in order to have welfare benefits for those who need it and military defense. Well, the answer lies in this article and in the series the article was a part of.

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  4. An excellent post! I had no idea about this. How can this happen and what can we do about it??

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    • Alaskans keep fighting it, but generally, we don’t win very often. Jim Sturgeon won a qualified victory in his hovercraft case (see the next posting). Even our governor is starting to say he thinks secession may be necessary. The UN supposedly has a mechanism to allow it peacefully, but the US allowing Alaska to become independent or move to commonwealth status — well, who lets the gold-egg-laying goose go even when it is the right thing to do?

      Liked by 1 person

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