"Alaska's indigenous peoples have experienced colonialism at the hands of the Spanish, British, Russian (1741-1800s) and United States governments (1800s on). The term "colonialism" refers to the expansion of a nation's powers of governance over lands, cultures and peoples outside its own national borders, thereby displacing and/or directly dominating the indigenous peoples. With colonialism, populations from the conquering nation generally settle in the new lands.
Although colonizing forces may bring some positive influences, the overall effect is to displace, if not extinguish, pre-existing cultures and societies. Being forced to give up an entire way of life and adapt to a new one often results in self-destructive or destructive behaviors.
Alaska Native citizens now experience higher rates of substance abuse and violence (whether directed at others or at themselves, as in suicide) than do non-Natives. Researchers have attributed the high rates of these problems to several factors, mostly related to the impact of colonialism.
Epidemics of smallpox, tuberculosis and influenza sparked by contact with non-Natives of European ancestry decimated vast proportions of Alaska's Native peoples across the state from the 1700s until the turn of the 20th century. Alaska's Native communities have struggled for generations with the emotional and physical trauma these plagues left in their midst."
Get the Story:
Colonialism wreaked havoc on Alaska Native peoples
(The Anchorage Daily News 2/5)