Like a lot of people, I wondered where Sarah Palin got her accent from. It wasn’t "Alaskan," whatever that is. Alaska is part of the continuum of the American Northwest and far western Canada, and she didn’t sound anything like Washingtonians or BC’ers I’ve met.
No, her way of speaking reminds me most of the north plains states of the US: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Upper Peninsula Michigan, and North Dakota, areas with heavy German and Scandinavian settlement. (I assume accents are similar in the Canadian provinces immediately to the north, but I could be wrong.)
It turns out I was on to something, as this article from the Mille Lacs County Times shows. In the 1930s, a bunch of Minnesotans from the Mille Lacs area moved to Alaska’s Matanuska Valley as part of the Roosevelt Administration’s rural resettlement program during the Great Depression. Some returned after just a year or so, since it was hard to make a living farming up there. But others stayed and, with the relative isolation of the valley, their accent became dominant.
Sarah Palin was raised in that same valley. Given the relative isolation of the area in the 1930s and following decades, the accent became native and was the standard when she was growing up.
And that’s your useless bit of historical and linguistic trivia or the day.
RELATED: More information on the 1930s Matanuska Colony.