Alaska has an aura about it.

From its beauty to its wildlife, culture and economic opportunities.

Not to mention its literal wealth.

The state has piqued the interest and drawn untold numbers to it before and since it became Alaska in 1867.

Alaska, an Aleut word meaning “the object towards which the action of the sea is directed,” became a territory of the United States 154 years ago. William H. Seward, secretary of state in the Lincoln administration, orchestrated its purchase from the Russians for $7.5 million.

The land long known as the Last Frontier is home to 231 federally recognized tribes — all here before both the Russians and the American settlers — and has a population of about 731,000. It is the 12th most diverse state, according to the 2021 U.S. Census, with 100 separate languages spoken in its largest school district at Anchorage.

It covers 663,300 square miles, making it by far the largest state. By comparison, the second largest, Texas, has only 268,597.

Big is a word often used to describe things in Alaska. It has the biggest sky, which often features the colorful aurora borealis light display. It is home to big wildlife — eagles, bears, killer whales and king salmon. It has had big opportunity in which Alaskans — many with big personalities —  have found fortunes.

No fortune is as prominent as that realized as a result of the oil industry. The delivery of Alaska’s oil to market helped Alaska realize wealth beyond most states’ dreams. At one point the revenue generated as a result of industry’s activity accounted for 85% of the state government’s available funds.

The investment of oil revenue led to the creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund — now worth almost $82 billion — and the fund has taken the oil industry’s place as the source of most of the state’s annual revenue. If managed as well as it has been to date, it will benefit upcoming generations.

Future Alaskans also will benefit from Alaska’s proximity to the Arctic, where transportation corridors begin to open as the region’s weather temperatures rise. Natural resources there remain to be tapped, and other countries with Arctic locales compete to capture the opportunity, as well.

One, if not the, most promising growth areas for Alaskans of the future is the world’s desire to explore Alaska and learn of its history. The tourism industry has gone from hundreds of thousands to millions of visitors, both as a result of independent travelers and cruise ships conveying passengers into the 49th state. The trend is toward year-round tourism.

Still, it isn’t only new industry that will move Alaska forward. The natural resources that have endured over the years remain abundant, and, with proper management and development practices, will continue to contribute to the economic wellbeing of the state. These million-dollar industries include fishing and mining — perhaps logging again one day— all of which have accounted for billions of dollars to the state.

And, as times and technology changes, the generations to come will create new industry and opportunity for Alaska.

Monday, which is a state holiday, will mark the anniversary of the official transfer of Alaska from Russia. Traditionally, the ceremony occurs in Sitka, the site of the territory’s government at the time. The original ceremony, which is reenacted annually, involved the lowering of the Russian flag and raising the Americans’.

Since that initial ceremony, Alaska has come a long way — with ups and downs through the decades, some of the latter still being dealt with today. But, the state still is a place with much opportunity and promise, and its citizens have proven the wisdom and benefitted from the occasion of Alaska becoming one with the United States.