Aleut People

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The Aleut people (pronounced Ah-loot), who call themselves Unangan (singular, pronounced Uh-nang-an) or Unangax̂(plural), arrived some 5,000 years ago, and settled in loose family groups on the coast and offshore islands of southwest Alaska. They are believed to be the last prehistoric migration of people from Asia. They are maritime hunters, but also hunt inland. Unangan means “seasider.” The Aleut people were all but destroyed by the Russians who exploited the Aleut to further Russian fur enterprises.
The Russians killed approximately 14,000 of the tribe. Ancestors of the survivors are now mostly Russian Orthodox and reside in their aboriginal territories. UNANGAN Shirt UNANGAN Hooded Sweatshirt
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Language: Aleut (Anangax or Unangam Tunuu)

Language Family: Eskimo-Aleut (Eskaleut, Eskaleutian, Eskaleutic, or Inuit–Yupik-Unangan)

Stock: Eskimo-Aleut

Phylum: Aleut

Dialects: Eastern Aleut (Pribilof Aleut, Unalaskan), Western Aleut (Atka, Atkan, Attuan, Unangan, Unangany). Copper Island Aleut is mixed Aleut-Russian language, or pidgin, spoken on Mednyj Island.

Macro-Culture: Alaska Native Village

Population: 2,300 (Dorais 2010)

Number of Fluent Aleut Speakers: 300 (1995 M. Krausse), 150 people in the United States and 500 people in Russia, according to Wikipedia. The Pribilof Islands boast the highest number of active speakers of Aleutian. Most of the Native elders speak Aleut, but it is very rare for an everyday person to speak the language fluently.

Other speakers of the same language: None

Historical Locations: Atka (35), Unalaska (43)

Present Locations: Aleut Corporation in Anchorage, Bristol Bay Native Corporation in Dillingham, Chugach Alaska Corporation in Anchorage and Konaig, Incorporated, in Kodiak

Aleut Tribes:

  • Attuan dialect and speaking tribes:
    • Sasignan (in Attuan dialect) / Sasxinan (in Eastern dialect) / Sasxinas (in Western dialect) or Near Islanders : in the Near Islands (Attu, Agattu, Semichi).
    • Kasakam Unangangis (in Aleut, lit. «Russian Aleut») or Copper Island Aleut : in the Commander Islands of Russian Federation (Bering, Medny).
  • ? Qax̂un or Rat Islanders : in the Buldir Island and Rat Islands (Kiska, Amchitka, Semisopochnoi).
  • Atkan dialect or Western Aleut or Aliguutax̂ (in Aleut) and speaking tribes:
    • Naahmiĝus or Delarof Islanders : in the Delarof Islands (Amatignak) and Andreanof Islands (Tanaga).
    • Niiĝuĝis or Andreanof Islanders : in the Andreanof Islands (Kanaga, Adak, Atka, Amlia, Seguam).
  • Eastern Aleut dialect and speaking tribes:
    • Akuuĝun or Uniiĝun or Islanders of the Four Mountains : in the Islands of Four Mountains (Amukta, Kagamil).
    • Qawalangin or Fox Islanders : in the Fox Islands (Umnak, Samalga, western part of Unalaska).
    • Qigiiĝun or Krenitzen Islanders : in the Krenitzin Islands (eastern part of Unalaska, Akutan, Akun, Tigalda).
    • Qagaan Tayaĝungin or Sanak Islanders : in the Sanak Islands (Unimak, Sanak).
    • Taxtamam Tunuu dialect of Belkofski.
    • Qaĝiiĝun or Shumigan Islanders : in the Shumagin Islands.

Aleut Historical Timeline:

Year History
1741 Visited by Russians Chirikoff and Bering
1745 Islands discovered by Russian Nerodchikof
1750 Russians undertook program of hostage taking, forcing Aleuts to trap for them
1761 Aleuts decimated a party of Russian traders at Umnak Island
1762 Aleuts destroyed 5 Russian ships
1766 Russian Ivan Solovief led an armada against Aleuts, reducing their population by 90%, “a manageable number”
1784 Aleut Revolt on Amchitka against the Russian traders.
1794 Russian government interfered protecting natives
1849 Smallpox epidemic
1942 During World War II, Japanese forces occupied Attu and Kiska Islands in the western Aleutians. They later transported captive Attu Islanders to Hokkaidō, where they were held as prisoners of war, and all but 25 died. The United States government evacuated hundreds more Aleuts from the western chain and the Pribilofs during WWII, placing them in internment camps in southeast Alaska, where many died.
1988 The Aleut Restitution Act of 1988 was an attempt by Congress to compensate the survivors of the WWII internment camps.

Mega Websites:

AAA Native Arts Profiles of United States Tribes A to Z Alaskan Natives Profiles of Alaskan Native Tribes A-Z

Aleut Kid’s Pages:

Aleut Authors:

Aleut Culture and History:

The Aleut constructed partially underground houses called barabara. These were made by digging an oblong square pit in the ground, usually 50 by 20 feet (15.2 by 6.1 m) or smaller. The pit was then covered by a roof framed with driftwood, thatched with grass, then covered with earth for insulation. Red Book: The Aleuts: Ethnography of the Aleut tribes in Russia and America.

Aleut Language:

The Alaska Native Language Center believes that the common ancestral language of the Eskimo-Aleut divided into the Eskimo and Aleut branches at least 4000 years ago. The Eskimo language family divided into the Yupik and Inuit branches around 1000 years ago. The Eskimo–Aleut languages are not demonstrably related to any other language families of North America.

Aleut Legendary Characters:

Agugux (pronounced similar to ah-ghoo-ghookh, so that it roughly rhymes with the word “book.”) – This is the name of the Aleut creator god. Agugux is an incorporeal spirit who is rarely personified in Aleut stories. His name literally means “Creator.” Raven (Qanglaagix, pronounced similar to kan-glah-ghikh): Raven is a culture hero of the Aleut and other Native Alaskan tribes. He is a benevolent transformer figure who helps the people and shapes their world for them, but at the same time, he is also a trickster character and many Aleut stories about Raven teach lessons learned when his poorly thought out behavior gets him into trouble.

Aleut Legends / Oral Traditions:

The Girl Who Married the Moon Aleut legend about the man in the moon and his wife. The Girl Who Searched For Her Lover Aleut story about a woman who avenged her lover by killing a family of cannibal monsters. Origin of the Winds Aleut legend about a doll-warrior who released the winds. Raven and His Grandmother: Aleut myths about the wives of the trickster hero Raven. The Two Inquisitive Men Aleut folktale about two brothers who were too curious for their own good. The White Faced Bear Aleut legend about the fate of hunters who killed too many bears. Tsunami Legends Animated illustrations of Aleut and Alutiiq legends about natural disasters.

Aleut Religion:

After the arrival of Russian Orthodox missionaries in the late 18th century, many Aleuts became Christian. Of the numerous Russian Orthodox congregations in Alaska, most are majority Alaska Native in ethnicity. One of the earliest Christian martyrs in North America was Saint Peter the Aleut.

Aleut Tribal and Community Websites:

Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association: Homepage of the tribal government of the Aleut Native villages. The Aleut Corporation: Homepage of the Alaska Native Regional Corporation that manages services to the Aleuts. The Aleut Foundation: Nonprofit organization supporting Aleut educational and cultural programs.

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