Alaska is the largest in area of the U.S. states, covering 587,875 sq mi. Bordered by Canada to the east and southeast and facing Siberia across the Bering Strait and Bering Sea to the west, it has the highest point on the continent, Mount McKinley. Its capital is Juneau. The original inhabitants, Indians and Eskimos, are thought to have migrated over the Bering Land Bridge as well as from the Arctic. The first European settlement was established in the late 18th century by Russian fur traders on Kodiak Island. Hudson's Bay Co. traders were also interested in the same area, and Russian-Canadian trade rivalry lasted well into the 19th century. In 1867 William Seward negotiated Alaska's sale from the Russians to the U.S., and the subsequent discovery of gold stimulated American settlement. Alaska was a U.S. territory from 1912 until it was admitted as the 49th state in 1959. Its economy has become increasingly centered on oil and natural gas: since the opening of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1977, Alaska has become second only to Texas in the U.S. production of crude oil.
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