The construction of the Alaska Highway during the Second World War was pushed ahead because of the need for a secure communications and transportation link between the lower American states and Alaska. The building of the road was a remarkable feat of engineering and construction efficiency, but, in the haste of wartime pressures, neither the Canadian nor the American governments gave much thought to the impact of the new highway on the Native peoples of the North. The sudden surge in population during the road construction brought with it not only increased economic opportunities for Aboriginal people, most of which emerged in the service industries, but also a considerably heightened incidence of disease. Indeed, epidemics spread rapidly among the Aboriginal population because of its low resistance to the new infections. Already the sudden influx of troops had strained scarce natural resources, housing, public works, and entertainment facilities. The greatest impact of the completed highway, however, was the sudden loss of the isolation that had somewhat insulated Native communities from the influences of the larger Canadian society.

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Chinook Multimedia

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