Traditional Aleut Culture
The Aleutian Islands are the ancestral home of the Native American Aleut people, who called themselves "Unangan". The Unangan have occupied the entire Aleutian Island chain, including Unimak Island and the lower Alaska Peninsula, for thousands of years. The Aleutian area is a very productive marine environment that has provided the Unangan with a very stable and prosperous standard of living.
In the mid 18th century, the stable life that was long enjoyed by the Aleuts was abruptly interrupted by the invasion of the Russians who were seeking profits from the sea otter fur trade. The introduction of European culture, diseases and technology has had a profound affect on Aleut society. It also resulted in a disasterous decline in Aleut population. This website will present some of the history of the Aleuts in the Unimak area and document what has happened to their numbers over time and where they stand today.
Since the U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867, the Unimak area has been experiencing an accelerated rate of change. Aleuts are now integrated into the modern global economy. The primary economic activity in the region is commercial fishing for salmon, halibut, crab and cod.
Below is a sketch made in the Unimak area in 1872 by H.W. Elliott. It shows Aleuts fishing for cod from baidarkas (kayaks). Click on image for larger version of drawing.