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Future Uses of the Alaska Court Plaza at 4th and Main Streets.

This essay was published as a letter to the editor in the Juneau Empire on September 18, 2016. The Empire is a web and print newspaper published daily, except Saturday, in Juneau, Alaska.

Aside from the Capital building itself, the site of the proposed statue of U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward is probably the most prominent, and arguably most important, piece of real estate owned by the State of Alaska. But, by their selection of an image to promote the statue, it looks like the group sponsoring this statue is still planning to show a map of the state of Alaska on the base that copies some kind of bogus, public relations version of maps used by carnival hustlers to sell patent medicines.

A real map of Alaska - one that is geographically accurate - will conform mathematically to a projection from global latitudes and Longitudes, and will show all of the territories purchased from Russia through Seward's work as Secretary of State after the Civil War. In my view the most important of these are the far westernmost islands of the Aleutian Chain: Attu, Kiska, and Shemya. We Alaskans can be proud of such a map. Anything less on a permanent monument will be a source of constant embarrassment for all future generations of Alaskans.

First, as residents of Alaska's Capitol City, we - as with all Alaskans - have an obligation to all past and future generations to properly represent the entire territory over which the Government of the State of Alaska now exercises the full sovereignty of one of the 50 states of the United States of America.

In the lobby of their brand-new building, the SLAM got the map of Alaska right. The rest of us need to follow their example whenever we think about state sponsored maps that show Alaska.

Second. At the beginning of World War 2 Attu, Kiska, and Shemya, along with Wake Island in the Western Pacific Ocean, were the only U.S. Territories invaded and occupied by a hostile foreign army since the War of 1812. Wake Island remained occupied through the War. However, the occupation of Attu, Shemya, and Kiska was finally broken by the Allied armies after a year-long battle. In that final month long battle, there were over 5,000 Allied casualties. Among them were Alaskans, Alaska natives, and allied soldiers from probably every state of the United States and the Canadian Provinces. To fail to show the site of that great battleground in this map of Alaska on the Court Plaza site dishonors those soldiers and all their families and descendants. In these days of increasing international tensions, we also cannot forget that the islands of Attu, Kiska, and Shemya remain foundational elements of America's global strategies in responding to the Arctic's rapid environmental warming, and in our constant responsibility and role in preserving the Peace.

Finally, though, there is the long-term use of the Court Building Plaza site itself. I am fully in support of a statue of William Henry Seward on this site, but not in the center of it because I do not think Seward is the only important figure in Alaska's history, nor do I think he is necessarily the most important. We have had many people who have been born in Alaska, or who have come here and stayed to live, work, and raise families, and all have spent their entire lives building this great state. I believe this particular site should always be used for quiet contemplation; and it should also be a place to allow us to recognize and honor these most important Alaskans.

My personal vision and list of Court Plaza Statues includes these five individuals set around the outer edge of the Site, facing inward: Secretary of State William Henry Seward, Alaska Native Leader Elizabeth Peratrovich, Governor William A. Egan, Governor Wally Hickel, and Visual Artist Rie Munoz.