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Area History

 Opening Alaska
Russian explorers entered the Copper River drainage, but failed to gain access to the Upper Tanana. The first American explorer to enter the upper Tanana River valley was Lt. Allen, US Army, in 1885 from the Copper River drainage. Most of the early contacts (late 1800’s) of the Upper Tanana Indians were made with traders on the Yukon River and gold miners in the Fortymile country.

The discovery of gold in the Yukon and Alaska in the late 1800s opened the doors to thousands of newcomers from all over the world and unrelenting change in eastern interior Alaska. Some bands in the Eastern Interior contracted with miners to provide food and services.

The one event which had the greatest impact on every aspect of the Upper Tanana region was the building of the Alaska Highway in 1942. This 1,523 mile Canadian-Alaskan military road was constructed in just seven months. It was built as a supply route to military forces in Alaska during World War II. The men worked tirelessly in lengthy shifts, sometimes in temperatures of -40° F. A record temperature of -79° F was set during construction. This major effort helped open Alaska to the rest of the world.
Last Updated: May 31, 2013
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