Legal status of Alaska

The legal status of Alaska is the standing of Alaska as a political entity. Generally, the debate has primarily surrounded the legal status of Alaska relative to the United States of America. Alaska is usually considered to be a state under the sovereignty of the United States of America. Nonetheless, U.S. sovereignty over Alaska has been disputed at times, most recently by a movement launched by Joe Vogler and the Alaskan Independence Party. In disputes over the legal status of Alaska, a key issue has been the tension between its "de facto" and "de jure" international standing.


The dispute dates back to events in the 20th century. In 1959, Alaska was admitted to the Union. However, opponents believe this was done contrary to international law as the vote for statehood did not follow United Nations rules. Specifically, the vote did not allow Alaskans the option of independence.

Alaska became a territory of the United States in 1867 when it was purchased from the Russian Empire. Events in the 20th century such as World War Two and the Cold War led to the decision to add Alaska as a state to the American Union. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act into United States law on 7 July 1958, which paved the way for Alaska's admission into the Union on January 3, 1959.

The vote for statehood was held in 1958. Voters approved the measure by a 6 to 1 margin [] . Critics of Alaskan statehood, though, claim the vote was flawed [] . The United Nations Charter requires that a non-self governing territory be given ballot choices of remaining a territory, becoming a separate and independent nation, accept Commonwealth status, or becoming a state. The options on the ballot were for statehood or to remain a territory. There was no option for independence on the ballot.

Critics of the vote also note that American military personnel voted in the election. This is also pointed to as a violation of international law which specifies that only the civilian population of a territory may vote. Despite the criticism, the United Nations decolonization committee later removed Alaska from the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The debate is considered by some to resemble the same academic discourse being argued by several other activist groups in the United States, including arguments around the legal status of Hawaii and the legal status of Texas. [Enriquez, J. " The Untied States of America: Polarization, Fracturing, and Our Future". Crown Publishing, ISBN 0307237524] [Mathson, S and Lorenzen, M.G. We Won't Be Fooled Again: Teaching Critical Thinking via Evaluation of Hoax and Historical Revisionist Websites in a Library Credit Course. "College and Undergraduate Libraries, 15 (1/2): 211-230.] The situation most closely resembles Hawaii as the Hawaiian statehood vote also lacked an option for independence.


Joe Volger began arguing about the validity of the statehood vote in 1973. Early in that year, he began circulating a petition seeking support for secession of Alaska from the United States. "Alaska magazine" published a piece at that time in which Vogler claimed to have gathered 25,000 signatures in 3 weeks.

During the 1970s, Vogler founded the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) and Alaskans For Independence. The AIP and AFI, as Vogler explained, were intended to function as strictly separate entities — AIP primarily to explore whether the 1958 vote by Alaskans authorizing statehood was legal, and AFI primarily to actively pursue secession for Alaska from the United States.

Vogler would serve as the AIP's standard-bearer for most of the party's first two decades. He ran for governor in 1974, with Wayne Peppler as his running mate. Jay Hammond was elected over incumbent governor William Egan, with Vogler trailing far behind. Typical political discussion of the day contended that Vogler was a "spoiler," and that the result would have been different had he not been in the race. However, this campaign opened up the doors for non-major party candidates to run for major offices in Alaska, and generally this accusation is leveled during every election cycle.

Vogler also ran for governor in 1978, 1982, and 1986. Several incidents during these campaigns raised his profile as a "colorful character." In the 1982 race, Vogler was taken to task for comments made during a debate. The issue of moving Alaska's capital appeared during the election, as it has on and off since 1960. The media and political pundits took great fun over Vogler's debate remarks that Alaska should "nuke the glaciers" along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska and build a freeway to Juneau. Vogler would later contend that what he said was misinterpreted.

Vogler's running mate in 1986 was Al Rowe, a Fairbanks resident and former Alaska State Trooper. Rowe took out a series of newspaper ads, fashioning himself in the image of Sheriff Buford Pusser. These ads were a major attention getter during the race. Between Rowe's ads and the turmoil existing in the Republican Party over the nomination of Arliss Sturgulewski, the AIP ticket was able to garner 5.5 percent of the vote, gaining the AIP status in Alaska as a recognized political party for the first time.

In 1990, Walter Joseph Hickel, a former Republican, won the election for Governor of Alaska as a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. This was the only time in the 20th century that a non-major party candidate won the governship in Alaska, though Hickel's lack of enthusiasm for the party's secessionist goals contributed to his decision to rejoin the Republican party shortly before the end of his term in office.


* Breeze, Virginia. [ 1958: Alaska's Statehood Election] , Alaska Division of Elections.
* Dougherty, Jon. [ Alaskan party stumps for independence] , WorldNet Daily, February 25, 2001.
* Enriquez, J. "The Untied States of America: Polarization, Fracturing, and Our Future". Crown Publishing, ISBN 0307237524.

ee also

*Legal status of Hawaii
*Tribal sovereignty
*Legal status of Texas
*Republic of Texas (group)

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