Q. In which areas of Alaska are the Athabascan communities? -Peggy
A. If you looked at a map of Alaska, start at a point, on the right hand side, a bit above the Arctic Circle. Then begin drawing a big letter ‘C’ going almost to the coast on the left and curving down and ending just below Anchorage, and you will have a rough idea of what is considered Athabascan territory, within the capital ‘C’. Quite a large area.
At the time Europeans came into contact with the Alaska native peoples, the native territories were pretty well defined and exclusive. In modern times, with the greater ease of travel, and other factors, the ‘lines’ are rather blurred, with native people trying life in other parts of Alaska than what was traditionally considered their own.
In the past, in hard times, the Athabascans often went thru periods of famine, unlike the native peoples who inhabited our coastal areas, where they could always depend on the salmon. Before European contact, all our native peoples were hunter gatherers, and not involved in agriculture. Since wildlife, berries, etc. sort of go in cycles, during lean years the ‘hunting-gathering’ suffered the decline and therefore the long winters were something to be endured and not enjoyed.
Above the Arctic Circle, and over to the left were the Inupiat Eskimos. The Yupik Eskimos inhabited the western coast; and down on the lower Aleutians you would find the Aleuts. Valdez, Seward, Kodiak Island, etc. was home to the Alutiiq (pronounced a-loo-tik). For 2 centuries, a lot of people just grouped them with the Aleuts, but they are different. In southeastern Alaska, you find Tlingit (pronounced (klink-it), Haida and Tsimshain Indians.
There are 12 in-state regional native corporations which administer money, land and benefits from the government for the natives.
Thanks for writing, Peggy. -BJ