Alaska saw considerable Russian immigration during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but by the early twentieth century, Russians constituted one of the state’s smaller immigrant populations. Filipinos have also entered Alaska since the early twentieth century to become the state’s the largest immigrant population. Filipinos have long provided an important source of labor to the Alaskan fishing industry, particularly in the state’s canneries. Although immigration to many other states slowed during the early twenty-first century, Alaska’s immigrant population has continued to grow, and immigrants from Mexico have become one of the state’s fastest-growing immigrant populations.
Many of Alaska’s immigrant communities were established long before Alaska achieved statehood in 1959. Notable among these were Russians, who began settling the region during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The first Russians came to Alaska for the
Filipinos have also played an important role in Alaskan history since the eighteenth century, when they were involved in the fur trade. Known as “Alaskeros,” they began to settle permanently in Alaska during the early twentieth century, when many of them worked in fishing canneries. Seafood would eventually become Alaska’s main export, but its economy is based primarily on petroleum. However, during the early twentieth century, oil had not yet been found in Alaska. Filipinos and other immigrants, including Koreans,
Most Filipinos who arrived in Alaska during the early twentieth century were men, who quickly established ties with members of such Native communities as the Tlingit, Haida, Eskimo, Aleut, and Tsimshian. Intermarriage between Filipinos and Native Americans was common, and these unions produced many future community leaders.
A major wave of new immigration developed after oil was discovered in 1968. Many immigrants came to work on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Many of them stayed after the pipeline was completed in 1977. Immigrants from Central and South America and Asia played an important role in the Alaskan fishing industry as both permanent and seasonal workers. Many brought the experience of working in fishing industries in their native countries.
Immigrant businesses generally have become more numerous and economically important since the late decades of the twentieth century. Most immigrants–from both abroad and the lower forty-eight states–come to Alaska seeking work. Many begin as blue-collar workers and save enough money to establish their own businesses and to send remittances to their families.
Compared to the experience of other U.S. states,
Berton, Pierre. The Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush. New York: Basic Books, 2003. Buchholdt, Thelma. Filipinos in Alaska, 1788-1958. Anchorage, Alaska: Aboriginal Press, 1996. Cole, Dermot. Amazing Pipeline Stories: How Building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Transformed Life in America’s Last Frontier. Kenmore, Wash.: Epicenter Press, 1997. Haycox, Stephen W. Frigid Embrace: Politics, Economics, and Environment in Alaska. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2002.
Canada vs. United States as immigrant destinations
Latin American immigrants
Russian and Soviet immigrants