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#akleg A little thread on Wasilla. I was wondering to myself how Wasilla became such a stronghold for anti-government sentiment so I read up a bit on the history. 1/x
It's always seemed incongruent that such an anti-government crowd wants so badly to become the capital of Alaska. The home of Palin and Dunleavy and the site of this splinter session of the Alaska legislature trying to decimate the government. What's underneath all that?
Before colonization the land was inhabited by the Dena'ina people and the city of Wasilla was named after a respected Dena'ina Athabascan leader. The photo is from the City of Wasilla website and the text is from "Native American Placenames of the United States."
There wasn't a lot cooking in Wasilla, a few tough-as-nails prospectors and the Dena'ina had the place to themselves until 1917 when the Alaska Railroad, a massive government project, opened up exploration and commerce in the Willow Creek Mining District.
Here's a photo from June 20, 1917 when the 52 original town-site lots were sold to early settlers for a total of $5,740. A less desirable lot could be had for $25 which is about $500 in 2019 real dollars. vilda.alaska.edu/digital/collec…
In October of 1917, the residents of Wasilla petitioned the Governor for $3,100 so they could build a school. Two weeks later they had the funds and set to work. I'm not sure if this photo is the same school but the time period seems about right. vilda.alaska.edu/digital/collec…
In 1923, President Harding paid a visit on his tour of Alaska. It was probably nice to take a break from the Teapot Dome scandal. vilda.alaska.edu/digital/collec…
In 1935, a further population boom took place in Wasilla when a New Deal program resettled 200 farm families from cold Midwest states to the Mat-Su. The goal was to develop Alaska's agricultural potential and get people back to work after the depression.
After that New Deal colonization, Palmer became the leading city in the Matanuska Valley for several decades until the Parks Highway put Wasilla on the map as a major link between Southcentral Alaska and Interior Alaska. Wasilla was incorporated as a city in 1974.
This is completely out of chronological order and totally irrelevant but look at this hat parade from 1949! vilda.alaska.edu/digital/collec…
Ok. enough hats. Without all this government spending on the railroad, the highway, the schools and the New Deal farms, Wasilla wouldn't be much more than a few scattered mining claims. So why the virulent animosity towards government these days?
Coleen Mielke has done extensive interviews and research on early settlers and colonizers in the Matsu. One interview was with Clara May (Martin) Carter, the First Woman U.S. Commissioner of Wasilla from 1944-1959 and it provides some clues about the origins of this beef.
Here's a link to the source on that excerpt, it's a great read: freepages.rootsweb.com/%7Ecoleen/gene…
"There has always been animosity between Wasilla and Palmer because the people in early Wasilla, came here on their own and paid their own way and fought the battle by themselves. The colonists… well, the government brought them in and built them houses and cleared their land."
I know there's always a lot more to the development of cultures and ideologies than a single incident but it's interesting to think that Wasilla's roots as a vocally anti-government community might be in this perceived inequity. The folks next door got a better deal.
This mindset is an easy one to slip into. You see it in discussions today of things like student debt forgiveness, "I worked hard to pay off my debts, why shouldn't kids today have to work and suffer under the same crushing mountain of debt I did. It would be unfair to ME."
We have to shift our perspective in order to escape this very natural jealousy. We need to count it as a success if the next person who comes along gets a better deal and we have to see it as our work to clear the way.
Each generation blazes the trail for the next. When we get bogged down in resentment, we stop moving forward.
If you aren't familiar with Alaska's Digital Archives, they're another invaluable service provided by our state government. vilda.alaska.edu/digital/
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