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What Is the State Motto of Alaska?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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The state motto of Alaska, “North to the Future” was officially adopted in 1967 during the centennial celebrations of its purchase from Russia in 1867. It is said to represent the promise of opportunity in this beautiful, vast and sparsely populated state situated between the North Pacific and the Arctic, West of Canada. A competition was held to obtain suggestions, submitted by the public, for the state motto of Alaska prior to the celebrations.

Initially called “Russian Alaska,” the territory was first found by Europeans in the 1700’s, when numerous Russian sailors made trips of exploration, went on land and came into contact with the Eskimos living there. For decades after this initial contact, many Russian voyages were made to Alaska to gather geographical information and learn about its people, climate and resources. Besides the accumulation of knowledge, the most lucrative of the territories resources, the fur of animals such as seals, was initially the primary source of interest for the Russians.

Toward the end of the 1700’s, the Russian government established themselves in Alaska with a company called the Russian American Company, the Chief Manager of whom was also the Governor. Alaska then went through an extended period of intermittent fighting during which time the native people fought for their resources and land, as did various European countries. William Seward orchestrated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 and in 1959 it became the 49th state of the USA.

The motto was established in 1967. Wide celebrations of the 100-year anniversary of the purchase of Alaska were planned and in the lead-up to them a competition was held in 1963, asking Alaskans to submit suggestions for the state motto of Alaska. Richard Peter, a newspaperman from the capital city of Juneau, suggested “North to the Future” which was judged as the winning entry and it became the state motto during the centennial celebrations in 1967. He stated that he chose it to represent Alaska as a place of freedom, a promising state filled with natural resources and vast tracts of open land. A prize of $300 US Dollars was awarded to Peter.

The state motto of Alaska is just one of many symbols and emblems which represent Alaska. The moose is its state animal, “Alaska’s Flag” its state song and the Sitka Spruce its state tree. All of these are synonymous with Alaska and were carefully chosen to promote pride and patriotism in Alaska.

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Discussion Comments
By anon244971 — On Feb 03, 2012

They really should consider a new state motto!

By indemnifyme — On Dec 09, 2011

@strawCake - I'm not sure that states ever change their mottoes! Anyway, maybe Alaska hasn't had as many jobs open in the last few years, but that doesn't mean it won't ever again, you know?

I actually find it really interesting Alaska didn't pick a motto until they'd been part of the United States for a hundred years! I wonder if it would have been something different if they'd picked it in 1867 instead of 1967.

By strawCake — On Dec 08, 2011

I think it's funny that Alaska's state motto is supposed to promote Alaska as some sort of "land of opportunity." I was actually looking into moving to Alaska a few years ago, but there was not a job to be found anywhere! Also, the cost of living is much higher in Alaska because it costs so much to ship things there.

In fact, if you look on Alaska's state website it flat out says that it's hard to find a job in Alaska. I guess maybe they should consider a new state motto!

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