Friends in Alaska
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“Friends in Alaska,” Friend, Jan. 1974, 33

Friends in Alaska

Grassy hills carpeted with colorful wild flowers, raspberries, cranberries, and blueberries describe a land usually thought to be snow-covered year-round. This beautiful area was originally named Alyeska (the Great Land) by Aleutian islanders.

The Aleuts are Eskimo people who live on a chain of volcanic islands on the southwest tip of Alaska. Eskimos who still live in villages in the traditions of their ancestors make up less than one-tenth of Alaska’s population.

The men fish in the Arctic Ocean from walrus-skin boats called umiaks while fur parkas keep them warm. In these villages foods such as berries are preserved by freezing them in snow tunnels.

Eskimo children love to play Blanket Toss, where they are thrown high into the air by their friends. They are a happy people and welcome visitors to their Great Land.

Long hours of daylight help plants grow rapidly and ripen the wild berries for children to pick when summer is over. Because the summer sun shines all night in parts of Alaska, it is often called the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is an important port nestled at the base of Mt. Juneau. Mountain climbing and sliding on one of the 5,000 glaciers are favorite activities of the Alaskan people.

Many kinds of animals live in this north country. Huge grizzly bears roam the unsettled areas, and salmon and trout fill the many rivers running throughout the country. Caribou, moose, walrus, seals, and musk-oxen are at home in this cold climate, each adjusting to the seasons in its own way.

The willow ptarmigan, Alaska’s state bird, is brown in the summer, but its coat changes to protective white when winter snows come. Pictures of these animals drawn by some of our friends are on pages 40 and 41.

Although the weather can be extremely cold in the winter months when the sun shines for only short periods, the Alaskan people bring warmth to the land.

Thousands of government and industrial workers now live there and are grateful to be in this unique and friendly area. They are proud of their forty-ninth state. When the Congress of the United States approved the Alaska statehood bill in 1958, the people were so excited that they dyed the Chena River at Fairbanks gold and flew a 50-foot gold star over the city.

In 1928 when President William R. Sloan of the Northwestern States Mission first sent elders to Alaska, they were very successful. It was written then that “in few other places have the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints been so well received.” On June 10, 1970, the Alaska-British Columbia Mission was organized, and now in this beautiful land there is a stake with a number of wards and branches.