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Mainstream Athabaskan Life

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Michael Rivera

on 28 February 2013

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Transcript of Mainstream Athabaskan Life

Transportation: Deghitan Athabaskans POPULATION Archeological Evidence SETTLEMENT PATTERNS Estimated population -about 11,000 people at time of contact Mainly settled near abundant salmon runs Sparsely distributed through out the Interior The Athabaskans traveled mostly by dog mushing. The Deghitan sled was their choice/style of sled for mushing. Riverine and upland groups traveled by birchbark canoes and mooseskin coracles, circular emergency vessels used for floating down rivers. Location There are three subdivisions that they can be classified as based on their hunting, fishing and gathering methods. Deghitan- lower Yukon and kuskokwim rivers- 1500
Holikachuk- Lower Middle Yukon and Koyukuk rivers-500
Koyukon- Middle Yukon and Koyukuk rivers- 2000
Tanana- Lower Tanana River- 500
Tanacross- Middle Tanana River- 300 Gwich'in - Upper Yukon and porupine river-1500
Han - Upper Yukon river- 300
Upper Tanana- Upper Tanana River-200
Upper Kuskokwim- Upper kuskokwim River- 200 Atna'- copper river-1000
Dena'ina- Cook Inlet and Susitna and Upper Kuskokwim rivers-3000 Upland Athabaskans made exquisite snowshoes, varieties of which were designed for different snow conditions. Prior to contact, dogs were used essentially as pack animals. Tobaggan-like sleds were used to transport materials from camp to camp. Women assumed most of the burden of transporting goods from one place to another. Bear Upland Athabaskan Indians occupy the interior of Alaska, land locked between the Brooks Range to the north and southern of the Alaska Range food protection gain status Riverine Warfare/Trade Pacific All Groups The Koyukon, Gwich'in and Dena 'ina were noted for warfare. The Gwich'in fought steadily with the Koyukon and Inupiat while the Dena 'ina battled the Koniag, Chugach, and occasionallt the Deghitan. Dena 'ina villages were well hidden to protect them from attacks. If they had seasonal camps they were usually pretty close to their winter villages to minimize seasonal movement Live in two or three family camps year round which move constantly Smaller winter villages and three or more seasonal camps which required entire families to move for extended periods of time Earliest evidence of habitation 11,500 years ago
On the Tanana and Nenana Rivers Housing Contact with Europeans Food and Diet Housing types varied between the different Athabaskan groups. Although they had their differences they also had their similarities. Contact with Russians, English, and Americans came relatively late due to their location in the interior. Pacific Group Trade was an important element in many Athabakan societies. The copper controlled by Atna' was highly valued by many groups. The Dena 'ina were noted traders between interior groups and the Koniag and Chugach. The Koyukon and Gwich'in traded with their Inupiat neighbors intensively after the 16th century. By Charley Pappas, Sean Harman, Michael Rivera, Sarissa Lammers, Naella Lundell and Jeron Scott The Deghitan followed their Yupiit neighbors when it came to housing. A typical home would be a log cabin built into the hill side. The roofs and walls would be stuffed with grass, sod, and other dense foliage for extra insulation. There would be between 10 and 12 of these homes in a village. each home would house two families. in the center of the village would be a kashim. This acted as a community center for the village. salmon fishing moose and caribou hunting On the Upper Sun River
Remains of a cremated child
About 11,000 years old Upland Group Introduced diseases, causing a massive epidemic, especially in the Deghitan and Koyukon tribes. This massive die-off led to the stick dance which is still in practice today among the Koyukon. moose
marmot whitefish
trout Charley Creek, part of Yukon
1914, small group of houses washed away
Few artifacts remain Reloading tool Weapons Both Groups -gather bark, berries, greens, and roots The Russians made contact with the Yukon and Kuskokwim river valleys in the 1840's which caused major struggles over the control of trade. This struggle altered relationships between the Athabaskan people. Caused major shifts in village locations and seasonal activities. -grouse, ptarmigan, etc. Beliefs/Ceremonies Tools and Technology BELIEFS The beliefs of Athabaskans mainly circle around the relationships with the supernatural such as:
- the similarities w/ animals and tribesmen
- The legend of the Raven, which was stories of right and wrong
- Bear, Caribou and wolf are the most sacred
Other religious actions were practiced through the acts of sexual abstinence and taboos; these were used to keep/maintain spirit animal relationships More Beliefs Malevolent spirits were NEVER to be offended
- One of which is called the "Woodsman", which would supposedly lurk in the forest to kidnap children; those lost to the Woodsman would become a Woodsman
The village Shaman was a very important intermediary connection with the spirits as well as being the "Village Adviser" Spirit Guide Would act as a magician and healer, having either a good or bad reputation (deepened on what he would do spiritually wise) Fortune Telling Weather and hunting success was a very big and dependent job for both the shaman and the village
- The shaman would use a method of telling the future called scapulimancy, where he would use the bone of a caribou to tell when and where the game would be. Plus seeing how good of an outcome the hunt would be Ceremonies One of the most important/major ceremonies was that of the Potlatch; in which the term applies to many other small ceremonies all under one name
Potlatch usually consists of one group of hosts invites guests to entertain/give gifts to mark significant social events
- those of which include the mortuary feast, used to honor the life of a deceased individual by his clans mates
- a game to collect the most gifts; blankets, food and other items of wealth
- dancing Clothing and Decoration Upland and Riverine Groups men women -tanned white/light caribou skin (down to mid-thigh)
-leggings and boots as one piece -pullover dresses (down to knees)
-leggings Summer vs. Winter Garments hairless fur-lined Styles and Adornments geometric patterns porcupine quills dentalium shells dried berries seeds necklaces =
symbol of wealth Fringe bottom of dresses and tunics
shoulders Beaver Skin/Fur used in winter for hats and gloves Tattoos Women three straight lines on chin Men small linear tattoos on arms Nose-pins
Face-paint-(Red custom in riverine groups) Ceremonies and Celebrations Hair Both men and women had long hair Men: ponytails at half-down their backs Even more ceremonies A distinctive event created by the Koyukon was the "Stick Dance", which was a marathon circle dance around pretty much anything; a fire, pole, even a house, etc.
- this event was also part of the two-day memorial celebration of the deceased and those at the previous Stick Dances (this being said, they would literally risk death doing this)
These types of events would be everywhere; from birth, a boy's first successful hunt, marriage and the rectifying of wrongs between groups such as insults or accidents
But, one of the biggest life event ceremonies is that of a women's first menstruation
- for this, a hut was built for the young lady to reside for her periods (this could last up to a year because they didn't know when it would happen, only when she was old enough)
- taboos were placed on her for things like:
seducing or contacting any males
touching a male's hunting gear for fear of polluting it
- she would have an attendant with her at all times to teach her the roles of the adult female
- a special feast would be held when she menstruated and her availability for marriage would be made publicly (to uphold some relations with neighboring tribes, they would be invited for the chance to be her groom) The only Athabaskan tribe to live by the ocean were the Dena 'ina, who resided along the shores of the Cook Inlet Interior Alaska is bounded by the Brooks Range and the mountains of the Aleutian, having them literally interlocking On the west however, the transition from forest to tundra is the regional boundary with Alaska's two major rivers, the Yukon and Kuskokwim run through There tools consisted of a primary core of stone implements for cutting wood, skins, and for making other tools out of differenet materials such as bone and antler.
Used chip stone scrapers
Wetstones adzes, wedges and chisels used for cutting wood
they made arows with some sort of sharp ogject as the tip
The Atna' used copper sometimes Athabaskans are known for their use of bark.
resepticals and containers
line storage pits, cover roofs and make canoes The Athabaskans were masters at making and setting snares and deadfalls that catch any animals that stray to close to the trap. Women were very good at catching small animals. the traps were made out of wood sapling or slates, stake weirs, spears, dipnets, gillnets. hooks were used to capture Salmon. In areas with a known caribou herd, the Athabaskans would band together to hunt for caribou in the fall during migration. They made fences sometimes to funnel the caribou into corrals were they would be killed and divided. North Archiac Sites
Few articafts, Little evidence of wealth, others
Nomadic Life style 1,000 BC
Atha, occupied by Yukon river
Artifacts of Ulus, Pottery, and other tools The rich nutrients and substantial quantities of wood that come out of the 2 rivers into the Bering Sea contribute to the productivity of marine ecosystems in that area; making it an ideal place to live
The Interior of Alaska was spared glacial scraping from the last ice age too; unlike Interior Canada, were exposed patches of bedrock are common Social Organization Believed in Maternal system
Houses shared between women, and Brothers
Husband and Brother-in-law were hunting partners
Brother-in-law raises children There are 11 Athabaskan ethnic-linguistic groupings in Alaska; all of which included similar language, endogamy (marriage with the group), clothing, ceremonies and beliefs Each of the 11 groups are subdivided into local bands consisting of between 15-75 people.
Local bands were led by men who were superior in trading, hunting and organizing
1-3 families would live under one roof and share basic daily activities h Each group has a territory and a headsmen of said territory Here's what one would look like The Athabaskans are considered some of the most adaptive and flexible people ever; incorporating tools, ceremonial practices from their non-related neighbors and social principles
- for example:

The Dena 'ina use of the baidarka and kamileika form the Koniag and Chugach
The Deghitan use of the qasigih from the Yupik
An the lower Atna' use of large plank dwellings and clan symbols possibly from the Tlinglit Three classes
Wealthy, Middle, Slaves
Slaves were obtained in raids
women and children Wealthy man could have many wives
Most marriages were monogamous
In Gwich'in High status women had many husbands
Leaders were chosen by which men were the best hunters, traders, and organizers
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