Today in Legal History: Formal Transfer of Alaska Territory to the United States

Although considered a bad move at the time, the United States bought the Alaska territory for $7,200,000 from the Russians at the behest of William Seward, Secretary of State.  Opposition in the House of Representatives postponed appropriation of purchase funds for over a year.  The new territory enlarged the geographical size of the United States by 20 percent.  All doubts about the purchase of “Seward’s folly” or “Seward’s icebox” subsided with the discovery of gold in 1896.  In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state.

Visit the Alaska Reading Room on the 4th floor of the Seattle University Law Library for a permanent exhibit about Alaska’s move to statehood.  The materials in the exhibit include unique photos and letters donated by Mary and George Sundborg, parents of the President of Seattle University, Father Stephen Sundborg, S.J.  Mr. Sundborg was a leading advocate in the Alaska statehood movement.

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New and Notable: Alaska Natives and American Laws

Alaska Natives and American Laws by David S. Case and David A. Voluck.
Call Number: LAW-New Books  KFA1705.C37 2012.

While the practice of tribal or federal Indian law presents its own challenges, the law governing Alaska’s first peoples has its own unique complexities. Many of these are addressed in the new edition of what has become a classic work on the subject by Case and Voluck. As the publisher states, “… Alaska Natives and American Laws is still the only work of its kind, canvassing federal law and its history as applied to the indigenous peoples of Alaska. Covering 1867 through 2011, the authors offer lucid explanations of the often-tangled history of policy and law as applied to Alaska’s first peoples. Divided conceptually into four broad themes of indigenous rights to land, subsistence, services, and sovereignty, the book offers a thorough and balanced analysis of the evolution of these rights in the forty-ninth state.”