What is the Sesquicentennial?

Sesquicentennial is a jawbreaker word, too big even for Scrabble, but it does have a noble ring to it. Its meaning is far simpler: 150th anniversary. Any anniversary worth such a big name also is worth a good party, and this time the party is for Alaska: 2017 marks 150 years since the United States purchased this Great Land from Russia.

Gov. Bill Walker, accordingly, issued a proclamation in October, declaring 2017 Alaska’s “Year of History and Heritage.” Observations are planned around the state, including on the Kenai Peninsula.

Special concerts will mark the occasion. The Anchorage-based Russian American Singers will be busy. In the spring they are teaming with local partners and Moscow Nights, a folk music trio from Russia, to present a concert tour of Native, Russian and American music. In the fall, members from the singers hope to stage a second production, a traveling multimedia musical history revue. The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Alaska Chamber Singers and Anchorage Concert Chorus will present excerpts from the classic Russian opera, “Boris Godunov,” on April 1.

Sitka, formerly Novo-Arkhangelsk (New Archangel) and the capital of Russian America, is particularly enthused about the sesquicentennial. At the end of March it will have performances, speakers, a Native art exhibit, and museum exhibitions to mark the special Seward’s Day (March 30). The town plans to dedicate a new museum. It will host another round of special events on and around Alaska Day, on Oct. 18. In addition to the annual reenactment of the transfer ceremony at Castle Hill, Sitka will host a speakers’ series, a Tlingit Clan Conference and Alaska Day Ball.

The Anchorage Museum, downtown on C Street, will explore the past 150 years of relations between Alaska and Russia in the show “Polar Bear Garden.” Juneau, which became the capital soon after the U.S. purchase, plans to unveil a commemorative statue of William H. Seward on July 3. Kodiak plans special lectures and a summer exhibit at the Baranov Museum.

Here on the Kenai Peninsula, we will host the first local history conference since the 1974. The main event, titled 150 Years: Kenai Peninsula History Conference, will be April 21-22, at the Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus in Soldotna. Details of the schedule and registration are still in the planning stages.

But the volunteer organizers do know this: Our conference is a chance for locals to meet the people who know the most about the Kenai Peninsula’s adventurous past. Amateur and professional historians, anthropologists and culture bearers from as far away as Russia will join Alaskans to share their knowledge, answer questions, and discuss the peninsula’s unique cultural legacies.

In his proclamation, Gov. Walker wrote “… our state is a living fabric of many cultures, with the strongest thread being our shared sense of community.”

The upcoming history conference is a chance for peninsula people to celebrate and explore the area’s diversity with its enduring and vibrant mix of Dena’ina, Sugpiaq, Russian, and Euro-American melting pot cultures, and to strengthen our shared sense of community.

Our conference will give people an opportunity to discuss the legacies of the past and how they can inform a better future. Echoes of local history endure in issues such as race relations, land claims and sustainable resource use.

This column is the first in a series that will appear in this paper leading up to the April conference. The series will share the stories behind Alaska’s and the peninsula’s histories and inform the community about upcoming events for the 150th anniversary.

For more information about 150 Years: Kenai Peninsula History Conference, check out its website at http://www.kenaipeninsulahistory.org/ and its Facebook page.

Shana Loshbaugh, a former Clarion reporter, is lead organizer of 150 Years: Kenai Peninsula History Conference, planned for April 21-22 at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna.

More in Life

Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion
This French onion frittata is delicious and not too filling.
A light meal to fuel fun family outings

This French onion frittata is delicious and not too filling

Christ Lutheran Church Pastor Meredith Harber displays necklaces featuring the cross in this undated photo. (Photo by Meredith Harber/courtesy)
Minister’s Message: Interwoven together for good

I hope that we can find that we have more in common than we realize

Virgil Dahler photo courtesy of the KPC historical photo archive
This aerial view from about 1950 shows Jack Keeler’s home on his homestead east of Soldotna. The stream to the left is Soldotna Creek, and the bridge across the stream probably allowed early access to the Mackey Lakes area. The road to the right edge of the photo leads to the Sterling Highway.
Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 6

“Most of those homesteaders won’t last”

A sign points to the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, May 9, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Art Center accepting submissions for ‘Medieval Forest’

The deadline to submit art is Saturday at 5 p.m.

People identifying as Democrats and people identifying as Republicans sit face to face during a workshop put on by Braver Angels in this screenshot from “Braver Angels: Reuniting America.” (Screenshot courtesy Braver Angels)
KPC lecture series to feature film and discussion about connecting across political divide

“Braver Angels: Reuniting America” is a nonpartisan documentary about a workshop held in the aftermath of the 2016 election of Donald Trump

Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion
This basil avocado dressing is creamy, sweet, tangy, and herbaceous — great for use on bitter greens like kale and arugula.
Memories of basil and bowling with Dad

This dressing is creamy, sweet, tangy, and herbaceous

Photo courtesy of Al Hershberger
Don and Verona pose inside their first Soldotna grocery store in 1952, the year they opened for business.
Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 5

By 1952, the Wilsons constructed a simple, rectangular, wood-frame building and started the town’s first grocery

Minister’s Message: Finding freedom to restrain ourselves

We are free to speak at a higher level of intelligence

Dancers rehearse a hula routine at Diamond Dance Project near Soldotna on Thursday. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Moving into magic

Diamond Dance Project all-studio concert puts original spin on familiar stories

Most Read