Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The term "Alutiiq" refers to the Eskimo groups of southern Alaska, frequently referred to in the literature as the Pacific Eskimo, who are located from the Alaska Peninsula east to Prince William Sound, including the Koniag of Kodiak Island and the Chugach of the Kenai Peninsula. The language traditionally spoken by the Alutiiq was Yup'ik. English is now the dominant spoken language. The traditional subsistence economy was based on the hunting of marine and land animals, fishing, and gathering. Following their involvement in the Russian fur trade in the late eighteenth century up to the late twentieth century, the Alutiiq are more directly involved in the cash economy. They usually work for cash and provide the canneries with salmon, and crabs. Many find employment in these same processing plants.


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North America --Arctic and Subarctic


United States

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Alutiiq file consists of 34 English language documents dealing primarily with the Koniag and Chugach Eskimo of Kodiak Island, the Alaska Peninsula, and the Prince William Sound areas. The time span for the Alutiiq file ranges from about 1774, at the time of the first Russian-Eskimo contacts, to approximately 2000. Most of the works in the file deal with the Koniag Eskimo of Kodiak Island, with some emphasis on the villages of Old Harbor, Karluk, and Kaguyak. There are several documents in this file which provide a broad ethnographic coverage of the Alutiiq, particularly Clark, 1984, no. 31, and further supplemented by Endter-Wada, 1992, no. 36, Holmberg, 1985, no. 38, and Befu, 1970, no. 16. In addition to the above, Birket-Smith, 1993, no. 1, provides comparable ethnographic data on the Chugach Eskimo of Prince William Sound and southern Alaska based on the analysis of archaeological materials and early documents. This type of reconstructive ethnology forms an important part of the file and will be found as a major technique employed in Heizer, 1952, 1947, 1949, nos. 2, 21, and 22 Birket-Smith, 1941, no. 3, Hrdlicka, 1975, no. 7, Clark, 1974, 1964, nos. 8 and 27, Laughlin, 1966, no. 11, and Johnson, 1994, no. 37. Various aspects of physical anthropology, including data on blood groups, dermatoglyphics, and the morphology and pathology of dentition, will be found in Jorgensen, 1963, no. 6, Hrdlicka, 1975, no. 7, Denniston, 1966, no. 13, Meier, 1966, no. 14, and Dahlberg, 1962, no. 26. Studies on early Russian-Alutiiq contacts will be found in Shelikhov, 1795, no. 23, and Coxe, 1803, no. 24. Other ethnographic topics discussed in some detail in the file is the influence of the Russian Orthodox church on Alutiiq society in Davis, 1970, no. 35, and Rathburn, 1981, no. 30; and the effect of natural and man-made disasters on that society, such as caused by earthquakes, tidal waves, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1969, as reviewed in Endter-Wada, 1992, no. 36, and Davis, 1984, 1986, nos. 32 and 34.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is a slightly edited version of the article "Pacific Eskimo" in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 1, North America, edited by Timothy O'Leary and David Levinson. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall and Co., 1991. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in September 2004.

Collection Indexing Notes

Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act -- categories 671, 423

BAIDARKAS -- kayaks -- category 501

BANYAS -- steam baths -- category 515

Chugach Alaska Corporation -- category 473

Emergency Services Council -- categories 731, 318

KÁSSAQ (KASEKS, KACHAKS, KASIATS) -- wise men -- category 793

KASHIM -- the men's hall -- category 344

Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) -- categories 473, 423

Kodiak Environmental Network (KEN) -- categories 318, 668

Kodiak Tribal Council (KTC) -- category 623

"oiled mayors" -- an organization of several communities who attempted to negotiate

with Exxon over the oil spill -- categories 664, 318

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