What makes an Alaskan? Author and professor Steve Haycox addressed the perennial question in last Friday’s Anchorage Daily News. Alaska is more place than state, making for a more interesting discussion than one might asking “what is an Illini” or “what is a Minnesotan?”

Haycox cites the research of UAF professor and author Judith Kleinfeld, summarized in her book Go for It. Alaskans believe themselves to be more independent and more self-reliant than others. They see themselves as more willing to take risks, and they believe that Alaska has given them more opportunities than they would have had elsewhere.

As Haycox points out, some of our perceived independence and self-reliance land closer to myth than to reality. Seventy percent of us enjoy all the conveniences of at least a semi-urban lifestyle. And as a state, we’re highly dependent on federal funding (can everyone say “earmarks”?) and the whims of big oil. As in the days of the Old West, frontier freedom is a romantic ideal that stacks short beside truth. But why confuse reality with perception?

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