At the time of contact in 1741, the various indigenous nations of Alaska controlled all 586,400 miles of it. The variety of these indigenous groups can be traced back to Alaska’s first Native descendants, who came by way of a northern land bridge that once connected Siberia and Alaska. As the Ice Age ended and the seas claimed the land, the nomads moved to higher ground. When the continents drifted apart, that land would become Alaska.
Today, Alaska's indigenous peoples make up about 24% of the state's population. Many of the 151 tribes live in one of the 229 federally recognized Alaskan Native villages that are scattered along the coastline and rivers, where they still practice traditional hunting and fishing. In larger communities such as Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, Native dress, language and social customs blend with modern city life. The blend is part of why Alaska is well-known for its cultural and historic attractions throughout the state. And, for visitors, it is a fascinating cultural journey where ancient beliefs and traditions come to life.