Alaska Alutiiq Natives Alaska Alutiiq Natives

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Alutiiq Natives

The term "Alutiiq" is used to refer to both the language and culture of the group of Alaska Native people indigenous to the Kodiak Island Archipelago, the southern coast of the Alaska Peninsula, Prince William Sound, and the lower tip of the Kenai Peninsula. In Russian colonial times, most Alutiiqs were called Aleuts. The Russians saw that Alutiiqs were different from Aleuts, and referred to them by area as Kadiaks or Chugashes.

Some archaeologists believe that the ancestors of the present-day Native Alaskan residents of the Alutiiq culture area have continuously inhabited the area for at least 7,000 years. Archaeologists have identified several distinct cultural traditions in the Kodiak Island area. These are Ocean Bay (ca. 4500-1400 B.C.), Kachemak (ca. 1400 B.C.-1200 A.D.) and Koniag (ca. 1200-1784 AD). The "Ocean Bay" tradition was first identified with a site near the present-day village of Old Harbor on the south end of Kodiak Island. The name "Kachemak" was first used by archeologist Frederica de Laguna in 1930 to describe assemblages from Kachemak Bay. Koniags were the people inhabiting Kodiak Island at the time of European contact. The Chugach were the people living in Prince William Sound when the first Europeans arrived.

The Koniags and Chugach lived in sod houses in their permanent winter villages. In summer, they moved to temporary fish camps. They hunted sea mammals such as whales, seals, sea lions, and sea otters. The Koniags were more dependent on salmon which was a major dietary staple of all Alutiiqs. They dried salmon for use in the winter. Hunting was done with harpoons and clubs, and fish were speared, gaffed, harpooned or hooked. Salmon were caught in weirs built across rivers.

Both men and women wore long hoodless fur or bird skin parkas, and hooded rain parkas made from strips of intestine. Men's lips were pierced to allow the insertion of small plugs called labrets. Women's chins were tattooed at puberty. Sea hunters wore bent wood hats in the shape of a cone, decorated with amulets and painted designs.

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