Juneau's rich history began centuries ago when Native Alaskans established villages in the Juneau region. Petroglyphs in the Berners Bay area, totems poles throughout Juneau and a large Native population today demonstrate the importance and continuing legacy of the Tlingit culture in our region.
Written history of the Juneau area began with the arrival of Russian, European and American explorers, adventurers, gold-seekers, trappers and traders, but when Chief Kowee of the Auk tribe showed Joseph Juneau and Richard Harris where to find gold in 1880, the community of Juneau established a permanent presence on the map. The 160-acre site that Juneau and Harris platted marked the first time in Alaska history that a town was founded directly as a result of a gold strike. Unlike so many boom sites, Juneau never became a ghost town. Instead, it became the capital of the Territory of Alaska in 1906 and of the State of Alaska in 1959.
The gold that early miners panned from local streams was quickly exhausted, but by then, hard rock mining had been established in Juneau as well as at the Treadwell, A-J and Alaska-Gastineau mines on neighboring Douglas Island. The hard-rock era lasted until World War II and fueled a thriving economy.
In the roughly 80 years between the founding of Juneau and statehood, Juneau underwent major development, first as a mining community and later as a center of government. Today, Juneau acts as a regional hub for government, health and medical services, business and education throughout Southeast Alaska, from Metlakatla in the south to Yakutat in the north.
The Juneau-Douglas City Museum is a great place to learn more about the history of Juneau, as is the Juneau History Page on the City and Borough of Juneau's homepage. The Sealaska Heritage Institute is an excellent resource for those interested in the history of Southeast Alaskan Native cultures.