Alaska has always been a place known for its rugged individualists, and as a home for those who perhaps never fit in where they used to live. We have always been a welcoming society, and true Alaskans are always willing to lend a hand - or provide sorely-needed advice - to "cheechakos" (greenhorns).
But some will tell you that "just because Alaska became a state 50 years ago, that doesn't change anything." Given the state of modern government-run education, I'm a bit surprised that anyone remembers it ... except that many of Alaska's pioneers are still around, to remind us.
One of the primary reasons Alaska petitioned for statehood was because as a U.S. territory, we were raped and plundered by Outside interests and companies who took our natural resources (gold, silver, fish, etc) with virtually no compensation. The Territory of Alaska had virtually no protection against such practices.
As an example, during the Alaskan Gold Rush approximately $200 million (in circa 1900 dollar values) in gold was removed. Seattle, reckoning that they were the logical "jumping off point" for the Yukon, set themselves up to rake in revenue from those headed this way, and those returning with whatever riches they had found.
$100 million of the harvest (50 percent of what was taken) remained in Seattle. That has never set well with many here, either, although there's little we can do about it.
When our State Constitutional convention first met, one iron-clad principle upon which all of the framers could agree was that the natural resources of Alaska belong to its people. Once Alaska was admitted to the Union, it very neatly put an end to Outside corporations coming in and taking whatever they wanted. We literally became an owner state.
The dividend which is paid annually to permanent residents is NOT a payment for living here; it's our owner's share of the interest on the account into which our oil revenues go. The oil is ours and the oil companies buy it from us. The "people's savings account" is called the Permanent Fund, and each long-term resident of Alaska receives a small piece of the interest. The amount varies, but the purpose remains the same: Alaska is an "owner state." The dividend is simply our share of the proceeds.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, we fell into the same trap as many other states: accepting large federal payments for infrastructure improvements. Granted, we have a VERY large state, and a very small population, but I do wish so many Alaskans hadn't gotten so used to federal money.
But then two people came onto the national stage: the current President, and Sarah Palin. Judging by the unending vitriol and smear campaigns, Mrs. Palin is a continuing thorn in the administration's side. How many other former governors have Hollywood making derogatory movies about them?
There have been a series of pronouncements from Washington D.C., letting us know that the flow of dollars is drying up. A couple of examples? Highway funds are to be cut in half. The steadfast and continuing "No!" to oil exploration in ANWR - a large, barren area of tundra the size of a medium-sized state. The continued refusal to consider oil exploration on the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.
Try this, if you're unable to visualize ANWR: imagine a basketball court.
Next place a postage stamp at center court.
That's the area for exploration, set against the so-called wildlife reserve, in reality nothing more than a very large marshy area of moss and tundra.
The list goes on, but that's only the latest in a long series of refusals from D.C. to allow us to develop the resources we already own.
There have always been those who were opposed to statehood, but many didn't want continued status as a territory, either. Their ideal was independence.
The Alaskan Independence Party ("AKIP") was first formally recognized as a political party in 1984. You probably remember that Sarah Palin belonged to AKIP briefly, in those days. The fringe media made a big deal of it, during the campaign, as if it were some sort of crime ... or worse, a sin.
(In their eyes, it probably IS a sin, because who wouldn't want to be a part of this big, wonderful country that's only now going in the right direction? All those talking-head media types wouldn't be lying, would they?)
AKIP still exists, and they ran a candidate against Ted Stevens (R-AK) in 2008's Senate race.
Their website has an interesting statement:
There is a commonly held belief across Alaska, that the US Constitution has been set aside, and other than ourselves, there are no protections to the liberty and freedoms we are to have as our continued inheritance since the formation of the Union of the "several States".It goes on, but you see what I mean.
A certain segment of the population here is unhappy ... very unhappy ... about the goings-on at the national level. I've been told that the unhappy segment is ready for secession now. I know that representatives of AKIP petitioned the Lt. Governor a couple of years ago, asking for permission to study how Alaska might, within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, peacefully withdraw as an independent State.
The petition was denied. Interestingly enough, not because it was wrong, or even a bad idea. The Lite Governor's response was that the petition wasn't "the proper forum for such a request."
Hmm. Makes me wonder ... what is the proper forum? And how long before the next attempt?