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What Is the State Song of Alaska?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 17, 2024
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The state song of Alaska is entitled "Alaska's Flag," which was originally written as a poem that recalls imagery from the design of the state's flag. It is unique among state songs for this close connection between two state symbols. A veteran employee of Alaska's education department named Marie Drake wrote the poem and included it in a school district circular in 1935. A composer named Elinor Dusenbury later set the words to music, and the resulting song soon gained popularity for its descriptions of the blue skies, gold stars, and other images that are still meaningful to Alaskans.

Alaska is the largest geographic state in the United States, and it is known for its wilderness and history as a rich gold reserve. The state song of Alaska recalls the color blue as it appears in the lakes and surrounding ocean as well as in the skies and mountain flowers. It also describes the gold of the constellations depicted on the flag, which are both the North Star and the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is actually part of a larger star pattern known as Ursa Major, or the Great Bear. Bears are another important symbol to many Alaska residents who consider their home state an untamed frontier.

Marie Drake created the lyrics for the state song of Alaska with the idea of the simplicity reflected in the state flag design. The flag was adopted as the winning design from a contest among Alaskan schoolchildren in 1926. A Native American student named Benny Benson was declared the winner and awarded a scholarship for his placement of the constellations against a deep blue background. The chosen stars are important in the local native folklore of Alaska, and they also reflect the state's unique position on the planet so that Ursa Major and the North Star are visible much more clearly than in some other regions.

When Elinor Dusenbury combined the words and music for the state song, an additional verse describing the state flower was originally planned but never officially adopted. The reasons for excluding this verse are not entirely clear, but they may have been tied to the fact that the addition would have required changing the title from "Alaska's Flag" to a different one. The state song of Alaska was officially adopted by the territory's legislature in 1955, four years before statehood was granted in 1959.

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