The people of the Alaska Territory wrote their state constitution over the winter of November 8, 1955-February 6, 1956, and ratified it (at a 2/3 margin on the special referendum of April 24, 1956), two years before Alaska was granted statehood by the United States Congress. The Alaska State Constitution took effect on January 2, 1959, when U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the official statehood proclamation. Alaska's Constitutional Convention was the culmination of over eighty-eight years as a territory of the United States, and the statehood movement which had been a major struggle for many Alaskans for many decades.

The Constitutional Convention was comprised of fifty-five members (mirroring the convention of the US Constitution in Philadelphia of 1787). The opening words of the first speaker of the convention were those of former territorial governor Ernst Gruening, responding to this original pledge the Federal Government made to the people of Alaska upon the Alaska Purchase of 1867:

"(Alaskans) shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States, and shall be maintained and protected to the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion."

Gruening's response: "...this is an extremely important occasion. To me perhaps its greatest importance arises from the fact that it is the first occaision of which is wholly of, for, and most important, by the people of Alaska. If there has been one important ingredient missing in our eighty-eight years as a district, as a territory, it is that little preposition 'by'. Many things have been done for us; even more things have been done to us, but very little have we been permitted to do by us... What a challenge then to create in these far northern latitudes a shining and eternal example of what we want to call the American way of life, to make Alaska not merely a bulwark defense for the whole hemisphere, for the free world, but a spritual citadel of the American idea. It can be done by the application to Alaska of basic American principles, the most basic of which is government by consent of the governed.", indirectly pointing out that the Federal Government had essentially failed to keep their promise, and that the Alaskan people had to take matters into their own hands.

Alaskans did not have the same rights, immunities, and advantages of residents of states of the Union, especially during the early years of the territory. For example: Under the Oregon Code, under which the Territory of Alaska was administered, jury members were to be drawn from the pool of taxpayers. However, for many many years, there WERE no taxes in Alaska, essentially meaning that there were no trials by jury (one of the more extreme examples).

The drafters of Alaska's constitution gathered in the newly renamed Convention Hall on the University of Alaska, Fairbanks campus. Juneau, Alaska was considered for the site of the convention, however the UAF campus was chosen for its academic atmosphere, and relative seclusion. Juneau, being the center of Alaska's political culture, was feared to be too filled with special interest lobbyists, and the city had a bit of a reputation as being a 'small drinking town with a legislative problem' (i.e., there was too much booze).

The document that came out of the convention, is one that models those of many other states in the United States of America, as well as the United States Constitution (heavily) itself. Being one of the newest states to the Union, Alaska has not had a great deal of time to develop the bulky, poorly-kept constitutions of some other states. For instance, some of the original colony states have kept their constitutions for over two centuries. Other states have amended their constitutions with repetitve, conflicting articles and sections. The constitution of the State of Alaska was intended from the beginning to create a (relatively) small document, with. The writers of the constitution made a conscious effort to keep legislation-oriented things out of the Constitution, to avoid the endless amendment processes of the statese of California and Louisiana.

Another item that Alaska's first constitutional convention thought important was language. It is said that there were originally lawyers involved in the convention who wanted to use thick, legal language (hitherto, et cetera) all over the place. But the representatives at the convention rejected that kind of thinking, and focused on providing the citizens of Alaska a constitution that they could actually understand without a lawyer. Such thinking was typical of Alaska's down-to-earth, frontier spirit.

Important Dates

Adopted by the Constitutional Convention
February 5, 1956

Ratified by the People of Alaska
April 24, 1956

Became operative with the Formal Proclamation of Statehood
January 3, 1959

Agreed upon by the Delegates of the People of Alaska
University of Alaska
February 5, 1956

Amended at various times since proclamation of statehood

A Message from the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska

Dear Reader,
I am pleased to provide you with a copy of the Alaska State Constitution. I hope you will find that your reading of the Constitution helps you gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of Alaska and the spirit of her people.

The Alaska State Constitution upholds the unique diversity of Alaska's people, land and resources. The Constitution establishes a distribution of authority among state, federal and local governments and sets basic limits on the power of government.

By forming a strong alliance and working together, the framers of the Constitution provided Alaskans with an excellent system of government for our special state. I hope you will appreciate their efforts and enjoy reading and using this Constitution.

Fran Ulmer
Lieutenant Governor

We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty within the Union of States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Alaska.

  • Article I - Declaration of Rights
  • Article II - The Legislature
  • Article III - The Executive
  • Article IV - The Judiciary
  • Article V - Suffrage and Elections
  • Article VI - Legislative Apportionment
  • Article VII - Health, Education and Welfare
  • Article VIII - Natural Resources
  • Article IX - Finance and Taxation
  • Article X - Local Government
  • Article XI - Initiative, Referendum, and Recall
  • Article XII - General Provisions
  • Article XIII - Amendment and Revision
  • Article XIV - Apportionment Schedule
  • Article XV - Schedule of Transitional Measures
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