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North To Alaska

Today I'm in Alaska. And if you don't mind, I'm just going to have some fun today.

Your reporter has not been in Alaska for a while. Matter of fact, for quite a while. And when you haven't been up here for some time, you tend to forget what a fabulous national treasure this great state, our largest, is.

And Alaska's filled with history -- a history few Americans know. The first humans known to have inhabited this vast wonderland were the tribes believed to have crossed over from Siberia -- the people who became known as Eskimos – an estimated 4,000 years ago. They lived mostly along the coastal areas.

The brave and daring Danish explorer Vitus Bering, for whom the Bering Strait is named, was the first European explorer to set foot in Alaska in 1741. He was working for the Russians. The first Russian settlements here were in 1784. These settlements are tied historically to Russian settlements in California in roughly the same era -- an especially interesting part of American history that often is neglected.

Anyway, a century later, in 1867, just after the U.S. Civil War, then Secretary of State William Seward bought Alaska from Russia, for $7.2 million. He was criticized for it, but in 1896, gold was found in the Klondike area, and the modern American legend of Alaska began. Americans began going north, to the future.

As you go about your work or play these hot summer days in the warmer parts of the country, maybe you'll want to give all of this a thought. Not a bad way to beat the heat.

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