Monday, May 10, 2010

Rumble over Alaska's Anthem

Check out this NY Times article on the ongoing fight over adding a second verse to Alaska's state song, "Alaska's Flag." Since the 1950s, many have been trying to modify the state anthem to acknowledge Alaska's indigenous peoples. Here is the original verse of the song:

Eight stars of gold on a field of blue -
Alaska's flag. May it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
The mountain lakes, and the flow'rs nearby;
The gold of the early sourdough's dreams,
The precious gold of the hills and streams;
The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
The "Bear" - the "Dipper" - and, shining high,
The great North Star with its steady light,
Over land and sea a beacon bright.
Alaska's flag - to Alaskans dear,
The simple flag of a last frontier. 

This verse was written by Marie Drake in the 1930s. It references the gold rush that led many Americans to Alaska to seek their fortune. What it does not mention are the indigenous people who were there first, whose culture also makes up Alaska's state history. This was an oversight that Alaska's 1967 Poet Laureate, Carol Beery Davis, attempted to correct by writing a second verse:

A native lad chose our Dipper’s stars

For Alaska’s flag that there be no bars
Among our cultures. Be it known
Through years our natives’ past has grown
To share our treasures, hand in hand,
To keep Alaska our Great Land. 

A children’s choir performed the state song, with the added second verse, this year on the floor of the state’s House of Representatives. However, when a resolution came before state lawmakers to officially add the second verse to the state song, it could not garner enough votes to pass. Some who opposed the move claimed the song is a “historical artifact” that must be preserved. What do you think? Do you think this second verse affects the song adversely? Do you think there should be a verse about being able to see Russia from your front lawn?

[Image via Salon]

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