tv Taiwan Outlook PBS September 18, 2013 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
>> the way the fish traps were operated was destroying the fish run. >> the civil rights question, it's built into the dna of the statehood movement. >> the north slope belonged to all of the eskimos, not to the state of alaska. they are mere trespassers. >> i strongly doubt that there would be oil production on the north slope if we hadn't been a state. >> the attitude that we had then was one of unity. [sweeping music] ♪
>> male announcer: statehood! was funded by: [cheerleaders chanting] [cheers and applause] [sports announcer speaking indistinctly] >> male narrator: the comforts and pleasures of modern living were a long time coming for the pioneers of alaska and for the native people who've been here for millennia. to win statehood in 20th-century america, alaskans had to unite, tell their story to the nation, and convince a skeptical congress. fortunately, this land bred people with drive and talent,
and over the years, they and their spectacular homeland won a special spot in america's heart. still, powerful forces that controlled alaska's vast wealth weren't about to give up their influence--not without a fight. in 1939, a new yorker named ernest gruening headed north to be the new governor of alaska. back in washington, he too often ignored the chain of command, infuriating his boss, secretary of the interior harold ickes. >> so he wanted to fire him, and roosevelt was not-- he didn't like to fire people, so he promoted him to make him governor of alaska, which was an appointive position. >> i think they felt they were sending him to the end of the-- end of the world, end of the earth, and that they would never hear from him again.
>> narrator: as the editor of the nation magazine, he campaigned against powerful monopolies and against u.s. gunboat diplomacy in latin america. president roosevelt brought him into the government, where gruening, fluent in spanish, was instrumental in developing the president's new good neighbor policy towards latin america. so perhaps gruening was predisposed to understand the alaskans who felt like second-class citizens. they couldn't vote for the president and had no vote in congress. the injustices riled gruening. >> "alaska was in the grip of absentee interests and had been for a quarter of a century. they were violently opposed to any taxation that would lessen their profits or in any way interfere with their desire to take as much from alaska as quickly as possible. the wealth of alaska was being drained off, and next to nothing was staying there for its needs." --ernest gruening. >> narrator: the absentee investors owned canneries and
installed floating fish-catching machines called fish traps right in the mouths of salmon spawning streams. >> it became pretty clear that the way the fish traps were operated was destroying the fish runs and would have-- if it had been allowed to continue that way, would have eliminated our salmon industry. >> the industry was not one of harvesting but of mining the resource. when they finished with this stream, they dismantled the cannery, put it on a barge, and went to another stream and did the whole same sort of thing. >> narrator: the absentees also owned the mines, the only industry with year-round jobs. the world-famous guggenheim brothers and j.p. morgan together owned canneries, mines, a shipping company, and a railroad. called the alaska syndicate, these companies accounted for most of alaska's economy. >> so that you had a very powerful national economic and banking interest that made up
the syndicate itself, and they took over the transportation and had a stranglehold on the basic economy. >> municipalities couldn't even issue bonded indebtedness, the normal things a city would do just to build a sewer system. and that would require an act of congress. >> anything that had to do with government had to do by memorials to the president and to the congress. the last sentence in our memorial was, "and the legislature of the territory of alaska forever prays to the congress of the united states that they will pass this request." it kind of struck me funny that we had to forever pray, that we had to go through god in order to get the congress of the united states to do something for us. >> "judge w.c. arnold,
director of the alaska salmon industry incorporated, a trade association, is considered by many to be the most powerful man in the territory." --fortune magazine. >> i guess the legislature was so small, you only needed to control a handful of votes in order to block anything from happening. and arnold was the man. he was the great stopper, handing out money to legislators to get them to vote the right way. >> he was on the witness stand, and one of the senators got up and said, "judge arnold, do you have suggestions to us for what the appropriation bill should be?" and he says, "yes, i have." he took out of his vest pocket a draft of a bill, an appropriation bill, handed it to the senator. the senator turned around, handed that to the clerk, and introduced this as the appropriation bill without even reading it, and it passed. i was thunderstruck that this could have happened. and that typified the control, the stranglehold, that
the lobbyists had on the legislature. >> and i remember meeting even before i became governor by some accident. i was at a cocktail party in new york when the man who had been the lobbyist for these absentee interests boasted how, with a few cases of liquor, he managed to persuade legislators not to tax the kennecott mine. but these absentee interests were able, in each legislature, to elect enough people so that they could prevent this reasonable taxation from being enacted. >> he was not popular with the press. any chance they could attack gruening and kill any program that he was proposing, they did it through the press. >> and there was a lot of control--money control--of different newspapers that was still maintaining the old philosophy of the fish trap or the mining companies.
>> and naturally, they didn't like me--that is, these absentee interests-- denounced me and so forth and so on and tried to allege that i was a dangerous subversive for promoting these policies. >> when i arrived here, i said to my wife, "this is not a two-party system. the politics are divided by, 'you are pro-ernest gruening or anti-ernest gruening.'" his supporters included some republicans. his detractors included some democrats. >> narrator: one of alaska's most staunch republicans agreed with democrat gruening: bob atwood, publisher of the anchorage daily times. >> "he had the potential of becoming an enemy. a liberal with a harvard background, gruening had all the qualities i had been accustomed to hate. when i got to know him, he became my leader, my main inspiration, and my mentor." --bob atwood. >> narrator: by 1941, however,
atwood, gruening, and just about every other alaskan had something even more urgent on their minds. [distant gunfire] [all shouting] >> "in the studies i have made of the application of military power on and across the pacific, alaska stands out as the key point. its position, halfway between american and asia, is decisive." --general billy mitchell. >> narrator: billy mitchell learned about alaska in 1901 as a young lieutenant in the army signal corps helping to build a telegraph line across alaska. in 1935, alaska's strategic location fit in with mitchell's ambition to make america an air power. >> "he who holds alaska holds the world, because a great, expanding nation, if it becomes dominant in the air, can now achieve world dominion." --general billy mitchell. >> he understood that alaska would be the air crossroads of
the world. you couldn't fly from asia to europe without refueling. >> narrator: alaska's strategic value in the aviation age might have been apparent to billy mitchell, but congress and the top brass weren't interested in air power or alaska. >> and he had a hard time bringing the rest of the country along with him and, in fact, was court-martialed for having challenged his army superiors who told him to stop making this argument. >> narrator: however, half a world away, japanese strategists were looking at the globe the same way as mitchell. >> the aleutians are the storm pod of the western world, and this meteorological phenomenon constitutes one of the most dangerous weapons in the arsenal of our enemy. in the early days of june 1942, they employed this advantage in an all-out attempt to secure
absolute domination of the entire pacific ocean. behind eastward-moving storms, they dispatched two invasion fleets against two widely separated objectives, midway island and dutch harbor, an operation designed to break the american line of sea defense upon which the security of the pacific coast depends. [engines humming] >> narrator: at midway, america dealt the japanese navy a devastating blow in the greatest naval air battle in history. [propellers buzzing] [engines humming] the japanese navy would never recover, losing three of its four aircraft carriers along with their planes and pilots. [explosion] [siren blaring] but in alaska, japanese dive bombers badly damaged the navy base at dutch harbor. and to the westward, japanese marines landed on attu and kiska islands.
they built fortifications and prepared to hold the islands. almost a year later, in may 1943, a cold and wet american invasion force landed on attu to oust the japanese forces who had entrenched themselves in the cloud-shrouded mountains. [guns firing] [wind howling] it was a brutal 19-day campaign in terrible conditions. trench foot and hypothermia felled more g.i.s than japanese ammunition. the end was a desperate japanese charge out of the mountains to grab the american heavy guns at the beach. it failed, and nearly all the japanese who weren't shot killed themselves with their hand grenades. [wind howling] >> world war ii took alaska
from a isolated, remote, romantic frontier and turned it into a modern entity. by the end of the war, the permanent population was already pushing 100,000. >> in fact, probably the best thing that happened to alaska was world war ii. it was a bonanza. [machinery rumbling] >> "the second world war brought to alaska its first real airfields. it brought a road construction program. it brought housing. it brought community utilities, water and sewer works and school buildings." --ernest gruening. >> mainly it was this massive investment of the united states government in alaska. but it was not just the money. it was also the people that came north. they would change the territory forever. [crowd roaring] >> narrator: and once again, rising international tensions pointed to even more dramatic change in alaska.
>> alaska did achieve military significance as soon as the soviets successfully tested nuclear weaponry, which they did in the fall of 1949. >> alaska lies along the polar air routes between principal bases in soviet asia and chief u.s. cities, distances well within the reach of swift, long-range modern bombers. increasing activity of our armed forces in alaska has been one of the greatest single factors in the territory's recent remarkable development. >> "america built top secret missile silos, jet interceptor bases, and the distant early warning system, or dewline, a far-flung network of advanced technology radars across the arctic. and the words 'cold war' were soon to become part of the vocabulary." --bob atwood. >> from 1946, the population
usually quoted was 99,000. but by '54, it's now up to about 200,000, 220,000, so, yes, that's a doubling. people were just coming into alaska any way they could. >> they were impatient with the restrictions of territorial life that old-time alaskans had always taken for granted, that if you lived in the territory of alaska, you could not vote for the president of the united states; you did not have any voting representation in congress. you had no say in how your territory was being run. >> the new immigrants to alaska after the war, i think, almost uniformly favored statehood. >> narrator: during the 1940s and early '50s, congress failed several times to pass a statehood bill. so the frustrated alaskans decided to push the congress by
creating a state constitution. >> the delegates who came to the university of alaska to write the constitution came from all sorts of different backgrounds and different parts of alaska. in the process--right almost from the beginning, the drafting of the constitution-- there was a common cause. there was a common effort. >> narrator: on the convention's opening day, alaska's delegate to congress, bob bartlett, made the keynote address... >> "the story of alaska's natural resources has too often been one of exploitation with very little of the great wealth extracted going to pay for necessary governmental services and for the permanent development of a sound economy for the people. the second danger is that outside interests will attempt to acquire great areas of alaska's public lands in order not to develop them until such time as, in their omnipotence
and the pursuance of their own interests, they see fit." >> narrator: convention delegate bill egan had to hitch a ride to fairbanks on a truck because cars couldn't make it through the snowbound mountain passes from his home in valdez. >> he was not an educated man. he never went to college. but he had a lot of native, natural intelligence, and he was well-read and served in several sessions of the legislature and honed his political skills in those experiences. >> bill egan was elected president because he essentially was seen as a very fair, decent human being who did not have a political agenda. he was always a good parliamentarian, a good chairman. >> with bill egan's leadership,
partisan politics was left at the door. >> there were some very heated discussions on the floor on issues, and it was bill egan who kept the decorum. >> and this must have been about 10:00, 11:00 at night, and bill egan just sort of interrupted the arguments and said, "it's getting very cold outside. the members better go out and start their cars so that they'll be able to drive them, and their cars won't freeze." and so there was a 10-, 15-minute recess, and by the time they came back, tempers had cooled down, and the convention went on with its business in a very friendly manner, and the arguments were taken care of.
>> narrator: the very first article of the constitution was a bill of rights. it said, "no person is to be denied the enjoyment of any civil or political right because of race, color, creed, or national origin." >> unlike the federal constitution, where the bill of rights came after the constitution itself was written, well, here, the bill of rights was right in the beginning and fundamental to everything else. >> narrator: a few delegates also wanted to add language to article 1 to protect women from discrimination. delegate mildred hermann said it was unnecessary. >> "alaska was the first political subdivision under the american flag to give the women the right of suffrage. that was accomplished in 1913, six years before the national congress got around to amending the constitution to provide the same thing. i think alaska amply provided for the political and civil rights of its women."
>> narrator: like most other alaskans, the convention delegates worried about how alaska could support itself if statehood came. >> article 8 is the only constitutional provision on natural resources. it seeks to encourage the development of the resources, but it protects the public interests. no resource can be owned by some commercial venture. they can lease the right to develop them, but they can't own the oil. alaska owns the oil, the citizens of alaska. the alaska constitution is the only state constitution that has such an article. >> in a way, the constitution and the state was designed to correct what ernest gruening said was the fundamental problem of alaska: too much going out, not enough staying here. the state was designed to keep more here.
>> the issue above all issues in the '40s and '50s was the abolition of fish traps. that was the whole symbol of alaska versus the outside interests. >> that was one issue that did get the interest of a lot of alaskans who didn't bother to vote on anything else, but they wanted to do away with the fish traps. >> narrator: so to get more people to the polls, the delegates added to the constitution ballot an ordinance that would abolish fish traps when statehood came. on february 5, 1956, the delegates voted unanimously to pass their constitution onto the voters for approval. one at a time, the delegates signed the constitution. >> when i started calling the roll for the last time... i got about three names out, and i got choked up.
i could hardly say the names. >> it's hard to describe sort of all the emotions that went through one's head. the culmination of this big effort of working with everybody else-- a major periencef a lifeti. >>rator: ail4,6, warmnny throughout most of alaska. voters came out in rerd-breaking numbers and approved their new constitution by about two to one. the ordinance against fish traps passed nearly five to one. on new year's eve, 1957, alaska's statehood delegation arrived in washington, d.c., where alaska's congressional delegate, bob bartlett, received them. he, perhaps more than anyone,
understood t hugmounin they still had to climb. >> he was a nonvoting member of congress. he could only be there to sak obeha of aska and alaskans. he had no vote to trade, no vote to negotiate. in other words, people could just ignore him if they chose, but bob didn't allow them to ignore him. >> i knew a professor when i was in law school at yale who did study ofhe house of representatives, and he told me that bob bartlett was the single most popular member of the house, of all the 435 members. >> bob was universally beloved. i mean, he was able to create relationships with members of congress, both republicans and democrats. he was able, as a voteless delegate, in his years to get
nearly 400 measures passed. >> narrator: while bartlett could get congress to help alaska on some matters, statehood for alaska threatened to upset the senate's balance of power in ways that could change the nation. >> the civil rights question was absolutely, completely intertwined. it's built into the dna, the civil rights issue, of the statehood movement. and you can't understand statehood without paying attention to the divisions of the civil rights issue. >> alaska and hawaii were sort of new blood. they had significant minority populations, and they could just be expected to be in favor of civil rights. there were so-called dixiecrats--the southern democrats who were anti-civil rights legislation--and bringing in four new senators who would support civil rights bills was
anathema to them, and they managed to kill it time and again. >> howard smith was chairman of the rules committee-- very conservative democrat from the state of virginia. and he ruled with an iron hand who doesn't want to see statehood for either hawaii or alaska. >> narrator: the washington post observed, "much of the politics of statehood lies in the assumption that hawaii would send republican senators to congress, whereas alaska would elect democrats." >> when dwight eisenhower was president of columbia university, he mentioned that granting statehood to alaska and hawaii would prove to the world that america practices what it preaches. well, as a republican president,
he issued statements in favor of hawaii's statehood but said that alaska was not ready. >> eisenhower thought that alaska was not viable as a state, that it was simply being held together by the military. >> you got to remember the attitude at the time. this was the beginning of the cold war, the intense period of the cold war, and he felt very strongly from his experience in world war ii that he didn't trust the russians, that he really felt that if they ever came at us, they'd come at us through alaska. >> "a chronological examination of the administration's attitude towards alaska's statehood indicates the opposition was there from the start, and the proposition of military security was dragged in by the heels, as it were, at a much later date." --bob bartlett.
>> critics of statehood claim that the military, which spends about $200 million annually, is alaska's principal source of business, that alaska just can't afford statehood. >> that was really what was behind the idea of congress putting the land endowment in the statehood act, the idea that the state could go select lands, lease the lands, and create an economic base. >> we have a situation in alaska now where over 99% of the land is owned by the federal government. we can't get that land into private ownership. and we want to have statehood so that our vast resources can be unlocked and be put to constructive use. >> narrator: so president eisenhower's newly appointed secretary of the interior would be critical. he was fred seaton from nebraska. a former newspaper publisher, seaton knew bill snedden, publisher of the fairbanks daily news-miner.
>> seaton contacted him and said, "do you know of anybody who knows something about alaska who can help me highlight statehood?" and snedden said, "you have a man already working for you." that's ted stevens. >> ted stevens was known as mr. alaska. he got this nickname because of his outright advocacy of statehood among the agency people and in congress and working with alaskans who went back to washington-- mr. alaska, the statehood advocate. >> the democrats themselves alone--because they were divided on the question between north and south--republicans were absolutely essential, and stevens and fred seaton and snedden supplied that sort of push. >> and it was a simple case of-- a republican was more inclined to open his door quickly and
readily to talk to a republican. >> narrator: one senator opposed to statehood said it was only alaskan politicians and businessmen who wanted it. he came to alaska to learn what the "little men"-- average alaskans--thought. >> so we organized the non-organization little men for statehood. and we put together placards that said, "i'm a little man for statehood." and several hundred of us met the committee when they arrived in anchorage, and we held these placards. >> narrator: it worked so well, they recruited even more people and changed their name to operation statehood. >> i can never forget it. we had a little scoop, and we'd scoop forget-me-not seeds and put them in these little packets and seal them up, and then we wrote letters, and we would mail them to all of our friends in the united states, urging them to contact their congressmen and
their senators, urging them to vote for alaska statehood. >> "i know they did an effective job for alaska because of the many times when i was trying to persuade a legislator to vote for my bill, he would interrupt the conversation to comment on how many of his constituents felt the same way." --bob atwood. >> narrator: bob atwood and c.w. snedden met with editorial boards of major national newspapers. >> what snedden did with the editors and publishers in america was sell them on the virtues of alaska, of what alaska could add to the union, that alaska would be an economic boost to the country. >> the george gallup poll in the late 1950s--1956, '57, when congress was debating the alaska statehood bill-- was running in the high 80s for statehood. 80 anything in a gallup poll is eyebrow-raising.
>> narrator: yet a few powerful committee chairmen, mostly conservative southern democrats, kept the statehood bill bottled up with no chance for a floor vote. the alaskans needed some kind of political dynamite to explode that logjam, or statehood would never burst free. as 1958 began, alaska's statehood delegation marked the anniversary of their arrival in washington, d.c. they still had no prospect for a vote on statehood. ernest gruening knew one of the keys would be the wily majority leader of the senate. >> we have a majority of members on both houses according to their statements to us. but lyndon johnson could achieve or kill statehood. he has never shown the slightest >> well, he was opposed to it because of the basic support he received from his southern
brothers, who were at that time concerned primarily about segregation. >> johnson sincerely believed that in order to bring the south into the mainstream of the country's economic and political life and to allow a southerner to run for president, the south had to end segregation. >> by 1957, lyndon had national aspirations, possibly to be president, that he wanted to frame himself as more a national candidate than a southern senator. >> and the way to do it was to create the impression that he was a influential consensus builder, a national figure who rose above his sectional interests. >> narrator: johnson made an unsuccessful bid for the democratic nomination in 1956. the man who put his name before the convention was his fellow
texan, speaker of the house sam rayburn. >> sam rayburn and lyndon johnson were like father and son--father being sam rayburn. >> no one quite knew when the congress first went together in 1957, whether rayburn would be for or against statehood. he had previously been opposed to statehood, but now that he was the speaker, he had a broader role. >> and bob bartlett, too, had a relationship with sam rayburn that was enormously favorable, no question about it. >> narrator: in july 1957, rayburn called bartlett to his office and read him a statement that bartlett could release to the press. >> "i am for the admission of alaska as a state into the union. the people of alaska can be assured again that they will have their day in court. this is not a partisan issue, and i do not intend to treat it
as such." --sam rayburn. >> "rayburn's opposition faded, and i do not pretend in all honesty to know the reasons, but i do know that he and johnson had many long discussions on the subject before the path was clear." --bob bartlett. >> was it because of johnson's presidential ambitions? most people i've talked to have said it was because of his friendship to bartlett. >> narrator: perhaps rayburn and johnson could bridge the divide with dixiecrats over alaska, but there was still the question of hawaii. in the past, tying the two together in one bill had always defeated both. >> we decided to let alaska's bill go forward first, and we thought that once we got the alaska bill through, the hawaii bill would pass without any objection. >> narrator: but that strategy required support from hawaii's delegate to congress, john burns. >> "jack burns realizes that
hawaii's only chance is to get the alaska statehood bill passed in this session of congress. then with the precedent of having admitted a noncontiguous territory, hawaii's chances would be much better at a future congress." --ernest gruening. >> "i will work hard for alaskan statehood. if it becomes necessary to drop hawaiian statehood in order to get alaska through, i will do just that." --john burns. >> he was known to take very difficult positions. >> "i think that was one of the most courageous political acts that i've ever witnessed. the bulletin and the other papers over there, they practically ostracized him from then on, but that did it. there's no question." --bill egan. >> narrator: in january 1958, johnson brokered the alaska first compromise among influential democratic senators. alaska would get a floor vote in the senate that year, but hawaii would not.
in exchange for johnson dropping hawaii, southern opponents agreed not to filibuster the alaska statehood vote. the southerners probably didn't see the compromise costing them anything. after all, they still had a firm segregationist blocking action in the house. >> alaskan statehood is not going anywhere in the house of representatives even if johnson manages to get it through in the senate, if howard smith, who presides over the rules committee, is gonna have his usual say. >> narrator: however, smith and the other dixiecrats hadn't counted on bartlett's detailed knowledge of the house rules. >> rayburn went along with a little known congressional procedure that said that statehood legislation was privileged legislation and could go before the house, bypassing the rules committee if the full house called itself into a committee of the whole.
>> narrator: leo o'brien, a democrat from new york, brought the privileged alaska measure to the house floor on may 16, 1958. pandemonium broke loose. >> house will be in order! >> narrator: but rayburn overruled all objections. the house scheduled the alaska statehood bill for an up or down floor vote for may 28, 1958. vic fischer was in the house gallery as the voting began. >> bob bartlett turned around toward us, who were sitting up in the gallery, and sort of put a thumbs-up when the majority had voted for statehood. it was tears and hugs and sort of...oh, relief that it's been done. the house had done it. >> narrator: a month later, on june 30, 1958, the alaska
statehood bill came up for a vote in the senate. >> "people began to talk. they began to see that we had it, and, well, we did. there was spontaneous applause from the galleries and also from the floor." --c.w. snedden. >> "the senators were all on their feet, pro and con. they were all slapping each other on the back and shaking hands." --vide bartlett. >> in anchorage, of course, bob atwood's paper came out with a big "we're in" headline, that it passed. >> "alaska's largest city rocked and rolled as the air was split by the sound of sirens, horns, bells, firecrackers, guns, and everything else that could be used to make a noise." --evangeline atwood. >> miss alaska then climbed up the ladder and attached the star to the big flag that had been put up on the post office. >> all over the state, there were celebrations. fairbanks poured some kind of
dye in the chena river hoping to turn it gold. i think it became mud or something. i've forgotten what it was, but it didn't dampen the enthusiasm. [crowd cheering] [martial drum cadences] ♪ >> you know, you just could hardly believe it. i know--it was an emotional thing. i even get emotional about it. yeah, it was pretty powerful stuff, yeah. >> and so everybody in town had been hauling their old scrap lumber out up to the park strip, and right there near i street, we piled this-- all the lumber up. and it was a huge bonfire. >> everybody brought their children. i let them stay up and dance around that bonfire 'cause i wanted them to remember for the rest of their lives that that was in celebration of alaska's statehood.
>> narrator: on july 4, 1959, alaska's first elected governor took office. it was bill egan. >> the state didn't have a whole lot of tax revenue, and we were teetering on deficits all the time. >> narrator: the new york times observed, "alaska is skating on thin financial ice. the ice may thicken in the next few years and lead alaskans to shout, 'we told you so.' or it may crack and melt under financial burdens and bring cries for help." >> we had very little mining going on because most of the mining effort had failed after world war ii. >> under the federal government's management, our fisheries had been depleted, and salmon fishing was really not in very good shape. >> there was some question of whether we could repair the damage that was done under federal management, but it turned out that we were able-- the resource was resilient
enough. we were astounded ourselves at how successful it was. >> one of the major issues, of course, that we faced in 1959 was the issue of lands and land selection. [helicopter rotor whirring] >> narrator: buried in the list of federal lands that alaska could select was some flat and windswept arctic tundra. and buried beneath that tundra was something very interesting. >> in geological terms, it was the barrow canning river arch, which is a giant rollover of the sedimentary rocks coming out of the foothills area of the north slope. this provided about a 100-mile-long structural fold, which is what oil finders are looking for when they're after elephant-sized fields.
[explosion booms] >> the trouble with alaskan politicians is, they looked upon land as real estate, not as the source of resource development. >> narrator: and most alaskans wanted the state to select lands near where they lived, not on the far-off tundra and to make the land available to them. >> there was quite a cadre of people who thought of the selection as "marshall's folly," in particular, all the land men of the major companies and where they were not interested, not one of them, in the prudhoe bay area. >> narrator: but governor egan followed marshall's hunch and selected the north slope lands. a few oil companies took a chance on leases to drill exploratory wells. >> it was one of the most remarkably courageous oil exploration programs i have ever heard about in my whole life--
drilling on the arctic slope of alaska with no roads, very poor air transportation, thousands of miles from supplies. >> the early history of test drilling on the slope was actually very disappointing. seven, eight dry holes drilled by the companies, and they were really about to leave the north slope. >> narrator: alaskans elected a new governor in 1966, and he hadn't given up. >> and so in '68, i took the oil companies up there. arco was one that i took up. their top geologist told me why they weren't gonna drill. and i just said, "harry, drill, or i will." and he says, "you will?" and i says, "you're damn right. it's our land and our oil." >> and literally, the story is that the rig was being cat-trained to the arctic ocean,
where it was going to be barged out. and because it was going past prudhoe bay, they decided, "let's drill this prospect one last hole." one last try by arco and humboldt. "and if it's a dry hole, that's it. we're pulling out of here." and they drilled the well, and they hit it. and that's how prudhoe bay was discovered. >> narrator: but alaskans didn't know if such remote deposits would be commercially viable, not until a new round of lease sales took place in september 1969 in anchorage. >> it was a real circus, and the high rollers were all there. >> there were a lot of texas hats in the room. people had flown in on jet planes. >> atlantic richfield company: total amount of bid: $3,546,000.
that's $1,385.27 per acre. >> but we put out at the times about five editions that day as the bids mounted and the money rolled in, and we were astounded--$900 million. the whole town was agog with this. >> it showed alaskans that we were really in a new league, and this was a new era. we didn't know really what it meant, but that was the signal. >> narrator: perhaps oil would quell the doubts about whether alaska could support itself, but not everyone was pleased about the oil lease sale. >> this territory called the north slope belonged to all of the eskimos solely, not to the united states nor to state of alaska. they are mere trespassers. >> narrator: while most natives
had supported statehood, the state's land selections made them uneasy. >> native folks started to ask the question: what does this mean for land claims? the land that we have taken for granted as being ours was now being divvied up. >> narrator: so the natives filed land claim suits against the united states covering much of alaska. congress needed to finally settle native land claims as it had promised in the statehood bill, or the lawsuits would delay oil development for decades. >> when the companies realized the oil industry had to have a corridor across federal lands to build the pipeline, that caused the industry to align themselves with alaska native groups to get congress to pass the land claims act. >> congressmen out of
the southwest and particularly oil country were lobbied to support the settlement act by the oil company people. >> narrator: in 1971, president nixon signed the alaska native claims settlement act. it authorized native-owned for-profit corporations to receive title to 40 million acres and $1 billion to settle native land claims. individual natives would benefit from dividends the corporations paid them from profits in developing the land. >> we created corporations so that they would have an ongoing effect, and i had witnessed several land claims settlements in the south 48 where the elders at that time took the money and blew it up. just--there was nothing left for the next generation. >> $1 billion in compensation, which is not to be doled out individually but instead is put to work to work in perpetuity for alaska native people. that's an astounding development.
>> the land claims settlement was completely insufficient for the amount of land that we actually occupy. why should we lose 90% of what it is that we had already inherited from god? there's no good reason for that. >> narrator: with native land claims settled, alaskans hoped congress would approve an oil pipeline across federal land in alaska, because without a way to get the oil to market, the state would remain poor. >> alaska is no longer the last frontier in american national consciousness. it's the last wilderness. that undeveloped, uncultivated, unmanipulated land is the last great stretch of the wilderness idea manifest in america. >> narrator: and the national environmental movement said the pipeline threatened that wilderness. [explosion booms]
[engine rumbling] >> the 1973 arab-israeli war developed. in reaction to that, the arab countries formed the organization of petroleum exporting countries, and they immediately tripled the price of their oil coming to the united states. >> the fact that there had been that embargo that led to the shortages in the united states helped us considerably. if you don't help us get this oil, you know what's gonna happen to us next time. it'll be worse. >> narrator: the nation and the congress were divided, the vote in the senate was tied, and the only way to break that tie is for the vice president of the united states to cast the deciding vote. >> and it was broken--the tie broken--by spiro agnew, the only vote he ever cast. i think that was the most significant vote in the history of the state of alaska, and without it, we would not have had the employment that went along with the development of prudhoe bay, and i think there's a serious question of whether we would have succeeded
as a state through--in the period we've just come through. >> i calculate that about 1/3 of all jobs in alaska are attributable to oil and gas, and that includes a large number of jobs to expand public programs and improve the quality of life for alaskans. [machinery rumbling] >> narrator: but some alaskans question whether the benefits of statehood outweigh what they think has been lost. they also question the legitimacy of the vote ratifying statehood. >> i am the chairman of the alaskan independence party, and the purpose was for alaskans to receive the vote that they did not receive in 1959, that which would be in compliance with the united nations charter. those choices were to include statehood, commonwealth, independent nation, or remain a territory. >> i really would have preferred
commonwealth. number one: it gave you management of your living resources. you didn't pay a federal income tax. you were as close to a private country as you could be. >> but alaska will definitely be an independent country. maybe not in my lifetime, maybe not in 100 years, but one day, alaska will be independent. >> there is so much to appreciate about statehood, but the critical thing, i'm sure, is that we got control of our own destiny in some very meaningful way that we didn't have before. >> one of the important objectives of the statehood movement was for alaska to capture locally more of the benefits from resource development in the state. i think that looking back after 50 years, that alaska has been
pretty successful. >> i strongly doubt that there would be oil production on the north slope if we hadn't been a state. >> well, of course, every barrel of oil produced from alaska backs out one barrel of oil that otherwise would have to be imported. in today's dollars, alaskan oil has contributed about upwards of $300 billion to the plus side of our balance of payments sheet. >> narrator: and as a state, alaska has contributed to the nation in ways that can't be counted in dollars and cents. >> the vote to force cloture and to push the civil rights bill forward passed with four votes to spare. in that sense, you can see the admission of alaska and hawaii was a crucial part of passing civil rights in 1964. >> i look back on participating
in something phenomenal more than 50 years ago. >> it became almost a motherhood issue, and it's too bad that every group of young people don't have such a cause. we all felt we were caught up in something, and we all felt we were very privileged to be here. >> it was a big thing, and i think the attitude that we had then was one of unity. >> if there's any kind of development going on, you can bet there will be one or two suits filed in federal court to block whatever it is that alaskans are trying to do. it has stunted our ability to achieve those goals that we hoped for when statehood came. >> 60% of alaska's land is federal, that is to say, it's owned by the american people, and they can do with it what they will, and they have
a perfectly legitimate concern about how what happens in alaska might impinge on that. >> well, i hope that, as we get further into this terrible energy crisis, that the country will survive and come to its senses and realize what a storehouse of energy alaska is, not just oil or gas but coal and wind power and tidal power. >> first of all, let's remember what most of us came here for. we came here for the beauty, the physical beauty, the natural resources, the splendor of its wildlife, the untrammeled lifestyle. >> and i hope alaska takes the lead in dealing with things like global warming and species eradication, and frankly, i'm concerned that we're not doing that. >> i'm, by nature, an optimist. and i believe in statehood,
that all alaskans of whatever race, of whatever ethnicity, are able to live in this place together respecting those things and celebrating those things that they hold in common. if we build on that, and if we continue that into the future, alaska will be an incredibly great place. [sweeping music] ♪
>> ming: hey, this is ming tsai from simply ming. i'm here in the heart of napa valley, downtown, to learn how to make sushi. really, sushi? absolutely, because the man himself, iron chef morimoto, has a restaurant here. he's going to take us through sushi 101-- how to actually make the rice, how to make the soup, how to put together the sushi rice. take some produce from napa valley, pristine fish, and we're cooking on the fly with morimoto right now on simply ming.