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Alaska and Hawaii may seem like very different states geographically, but they actually share some key similarities in their history and modern-day characteristics. If you’re wondering what ties these two unique states together, read on for an in-depth look at their common bonds.

In short, Alaska and Hawaii were both the last states admitted to the union, have significant native populations and cultures, rely heavily on tourism, are geographically isolated from the continental US, and have strategic military significance due to their locations.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will explore the nuances behind these shared traits between the 49th and 50th states, including details on their admission to the union, native cultures, economies, geography, and military assets.

Late Admission to Statehood

Alaska – 49th State in 1959

When it comes to statehood, Alaska was a late bloomer. It wasn’t until January 3, 1959, that Alaska officially became the 49th state of the United States. Despite being a sparsely populated region with harsh weather conditions, Alaska’s rich natural resources and strategic location played a significant role in its admission to statehood. The discovery of gold and oil in the late 19th and early 20th centuries sparked interest in the territory, leading to increased settlement and economic development. It took several decades of negotiations and political maneuvering before Alaska finally achieved statehood.

Hawaii – 50th State in 1959

Similarly, Hawaii’s journey to statehood was a long and arduous one. On August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. Unlike Alaska, Hawaii’s tropical climate and picturesque beaches made it an attractive destination for tourists and settlers alike. However, its strategic location in the Pacific Ocean also made it a vital military outpost, especially during World War II. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 further highlighted Hawaii’s significance, leading to increased attention and support for statehood.

Reasons for Delayed Statehood

Both Alaska and Hawaii faced unique challenges that contributed to their delayed statehood. In the case of Alaska, its remote location and harsh climate made it difficult for the federal government to fully understand and appreciate the potential benefits of incorporating the territory as a state. Additionally, concerns about the impact of Alaska’s large Native American population on the state’s governance and representation further complicated the statehood process.

Similarly, Hawaii’s history as a sovereign kingdom and its cultural differences posed challenges to its path towards statehood. The overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and the subsequent annexation by the United States raised questions about the legitimacy of Hawaii’s inclusion as a state. It wasn’t until several decades later that these concerns were addressed, paving the way for Hawaii’s eventual statehood.

For more information on Alaska’s path to statehood, you can visit For Hawaii’s journey to statehood, you can visit

Native Populations and Cultures

When we think of Alaska and Hawaii, we often picture their breathtaking landscapes and unique histories. However, these two states also share something significant: vibrant native populations and cultures that have shaped their identities for centuries.

Alaska Natives – Inuit, Aleut, Athabaskan

Alaska is home to a diverse group of indigenous peoples known as Alaska Natives. This umbrella term encompasses several distinct ethnic groups, including the Inuit, Aleut, and Athabaskan. Each group has its own language, traditions, and way of life.

The Inuit, also known as Eskimos, inhabit the northernmost regions of Alaska. They have adapted to the harsh Arctic environment and developed a rich culture centered around hunting, fishing, and gathering. Their deep connection to the land and sea is evident in their traditional practices and beliefs.

The Aleut people, on the other hand, live in the Aleutian Islands and coastal areas of Alaska. They are renowned for their skills in fishing and hunting marine mammals, as well as their artistic talents. Aleut culture is characterized by intricate basket weaving, beautiful beadwork, and storytelling traditions passed down through generations.

The Athabaskan people are spread across Alaska, Canada, and the western United States. They have a deep spiritual connection to the land and rely on hunting, fishing, and gathering for sustenance. The Athabaskan languages are incredibly diverse, with dialects varying between different regions.

Native Hawaiians – Polynesian Origins

Native Hawaiians, also known as Kanaka Maoli, are the indigenous people of Hawaii. They have Polynesian origins and settled in the Hawaiian Islands over a thousand years ago. Their culture is deeply rooted in the land, ocean, and celestial navigation.

Native Hawaiians have a rich oral tradition, with stories and legends passed down through generations. They have a strong connection to their ancestors and believe in the importance of preserving their cultural heritage. Practices such as hula dancing, ukulele playing, and the art of lei-making are integral parts of Native Hawaiian identity.

Cultural Revivals and Self-Determination

Both Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians have experienced periods of cultural suppression and loss due to colonization and assimilation efforts. However, in recent decades, there has been a resurgence of cultural pride and a push for self-determination.

Communities in Alaska and Hawaii have actively worked to preserve and revitalize their native languages, traditional arts, and spiritual practices. Cultural events, festivals, and educational programs have been instrumental in fostering a sense of identity and belonging.

Furthermore, many Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian organizations have advocated for self-governance and the protection of their ancestral lands and resources. They have made significant strides in reclaiming control over their destinies and shaping policies that reflect their unique needs and values.

Tourism-Driven Economies

Both Alaska and Hawaii share a common characteristic – they both have economies that heavily rely on tourism. Let’s take a closer look at what makes these two states so attractive to visitors from all over the world.

Alaska’s Natural Wonders

Alaska is known for its breathtaking natural wonders, such as glaciers, mountains, and wildlife. The state boasts stunning national parks like Denali and Kenai Fjords, where visitors can witness the majesty of towering peaks and spot grizzly bears, moose, and eagles. The unique appeal of Alaska’s rugged wilderness attracts nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike, contributing significantly to the state’s tourism industry. According to the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, tourism generated over $4 billion in visitor spending in 2019, supporting more than 50,000 jobs.

Hawaii’s Island Paradise Appeal

Hawaii, on the other hand, is renowned for its tropical climate, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture. The islands offer a diverse range of activities, including snorkeling, surfing, and hiking through lush rainforests. Tourists are drawn to Hawaii’s unique blend of natural beauty and Polynesian heritage. The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported that in 2019, the state welcomed approximately 10.4 million visitors, who collectively spent around $17.75 billion. The tourism industry in Hawaii plays a vital role in the state’s economy, supporting local businesses and providing employment opportunities for residents.

Economic Reliance on Tourism

Both Alaska and Hawaii heavily rely on their tourism industries to drive economic growth and development. The revenue generated from visitor spending contributes to job creation, infrastructure improvements, and the overall prosperity of these states. However, it is important to note that this heavy reliance on tourism also presents challenges, such as seasonality and vulnerability to external factors like natural disasters or economic downturns.

Despite these challenges, Alaska and Hawaii continue to invest in sustainable tourism practices and diversify their economies to reduce their dependence on a single industry. By promoting responsible travel and exploring new sectors, both states are striving to create a balance between economic growth and preserving their unique natural and cultural resources.

So, whether you find yourself exploring the untouched wilderness of Alaska or basking in the sun on a Hawaiian beach, remember that your visit contributes to the prosperity of these tourism-driven economies.

Geographic Isolation from Contiguous US

Despite being part of the United States, both Alaska and Hawaii share a common characteristic – geographic isolation from the contiguous US. Let’s take a closer look at how these two states are separated from the rest of the country.

Alaska – Separated by Canada

Alaska, the largest state in the US, is separated from the rest of the country by Canada. Its location in the extreme northwest of North America makes it quite unique. In fact, Alaska shares its northern border with Canada’s Yukon and British Columbia provinces. This geographic separation poses both challenges and advantages for the state.

Due to its remote location, Alaskans face logistical challenges when it comes to connecting with the rest of the country. The state relies heavily on air travel and shipping routes to transport goods and connect with the mainland. The state’s capital, Juneau, for example, is not accessible by road and can only be reached by air or ferry. Despite these challenges, Alaska’s isolation also contributes to its untouched natural beauty, making it a popular tourist destination.

For more information on Alaska’s geography and its unique challenges, you can visit the official website of the State of Alaska:

Hawaii – Far-Flung Pacific Islands

Hawaii, on the other hand, is a group of far-flung Pacific islands located around 2,400 miles southwest of California. These islands are surrounded by the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, creating a sense of isolation from the mainland. This isolation has shaped Hawaii’s distinct culture, biodiversity, and way of life.

Similar to Alaska, Hawaii faces logistical challenges due to its remote location. The state heavily relies on air and sea transportation for both tourism and trade. The distance from the mainland also affects the cost of goods and services, making them more expensive compared to the contiguous US. Despite these challenges, Hawaii’s stunning beaches, volcanic landscapes, and unique flora and fauna continue to attract visitors from around the world.

To learn more about Hawaii’s geography and culture, you can visit the official website of the Hawaii Tourism Authority:

Logistical Challenges

Both Alaska and Hawaii face logistical challenges due to their geographic isolation. These challenges include higher transportation costs, limited access to certain goods and services, and a reliance on air and sea travel for connectivity. However, these challenges have also led to innovative solutions and unique opportunities.

In Alaska, for example, the state has developed a robust network of airports and seaports to facilitate transportation. Additionally, advancements in technology have enabled Alaskans to connect with the rest of the world through telecommunications and internet services. Similarly, Hawaii has invested in infrastructure to support its tourism industry, including modern airports and harbors.

Despite the challenges, the isolation of Alaska and Hawaii has also preserved their natural landscapes and cultures, making them truly special destinations. So, if you ever have the opportunity to visit either of these states, embrace the journey and enjoy the unique experiences they have to offer!

Strategic Military Significance

Alaska – Proximity to Arctic and Russia

Alaska’s location makes it of great strategic importance to the United States military. Its proximity to the Arctic region and Russia has led to its designation as a critical area for national security. The vast expanse of the Arctic Ocean, which borders Alaska, has become an area of increasing interest due to its potential for oil and gas reserves, shipping routes, and potential military threats. In fact, the Arctic region has seen a rise in military activities in recent years, with Russia, Canada, and other countries increasing their presence in the area. Alaska’s location allows the United States to monitor and respond to any developments in the Arctic effectively.

Hawaii – Central Pacific Location

Hawaii’s strategic military significance lies in its central Pacific location. Situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii serves as a crucial hub for military operations and logistics. Its geographical position allows for rapid deployment of forces to various parts of the Pacific, making it a vital point for projecting power and maintaining regional stability. Additionally, Hawaii’s location provides a strategic advantage in terms of surveillance and intelligence gathering. Its position allows for monitoring activities in the Pacific, including potential threats from countries such as China and North Korea.

Key Military Bases and Assets

Both Alaska and Hawaii host important military bases and assets that further enhance their strategic significance. In Alaska, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base serve as key installations for air defense and power projection in the region. These bases house fighter jets, surveillance aircraft, and missile defense systems, among other assets. In Hawaii, the Pacific Command headquarters, located at Camp H.M. Smith, oversees military operations in the entire Pacific region. Pearl Harbor Naval Base, another critical installation, supports the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet and serves as a major logistics and repair hub. These military bases and assets contribute significantly to the United States’ ability to project power and maintain stability in the respective regions.

For more information on the strategic military significance of Alaska and Hawaii, you can visit the following websites:


In conclusion, Alaska and Hawaii have more in common than may be apparent at first glance. As the final two states admitted to the union, they share late beginnings on the road to statehood. They also have robust native cultures and identities that set them apart from the continental US. Tourism drives their economies, given their geographic distance from the lower 48 states. And their locations at opposite ends of the country give them strategic importance for US military operations and defense. By exploring the parallels between these iconic yet very different states, we gain greater appreciation for the diversity that comprises the United States of America.

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