our people

Our People

Traditional customs of the Eskimo, Aleut, and Indian are still evident. Each of the three Native peoples of the Bristol Bay region has their own distinct Native language and dialect that identifies them as being different from another tribe. From hub communities, visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, boating, rafting, fishing, hunting, traditional subsistence activities, air tours, hiking, cannery tours, museum tours, and historic sites.

Aleut Culture

The Aleut/Alutiiq who lived on the ocean side of the Alaska Peninsula were confined to the coasts because of rugged mountainous terrain. Skilled kayakers subsisting mainly on fish and sea mammals, the Aleut/Alutiiq made two types of sea craft: the small, decked canoe known as the kayak or bidarka, and the large open boat called the angyat or baidar. The main food source centered around seals, whale, salmon, halibut, shellfish, and other sea creatures. These resources were not only harvested for food, but also for clothing, boats, and as oil for lamps. Land mammals such as caribou were taken by spear or bow and arrow. Large nets were used to capture birds such as cormorants, ducks, and sea parrots for use in making parkas. Whales were obtained mainly by use of poisoned spear blades.

Dena'ina Athabascan Indian Culture

The Dena’ina Athabascans occupied lands around Iliamna Lake and Lake Clark. Abundant runs of red salmon and moose and caribou provided a stable food supply for the Indians living in this area. They hunted for bear, beaver, porcupine, and waterfowl, and fished for freshwater fish. Canoes were made of birch bark, moose hide, and cottonwood. To the Dena’ina, the raven is the creator of their ancient world and is known as a mischief-loving deity. Their oral history is filled with raven stories meant to teach and entertain.

Eskimo Culture

The Eskimos on the Bristol Bay side of the peninsula were primarily hunters and fisherman, subsisting on caribou, moose, bear, and other land animals as well as waterfowl and ptarmigan. Salmon was harvested with the use of gill nets made of spruce root, while smaller fish were taken with scoop nets. Fish traps, harpoons, and weirs were also used in the taking of fish. Whitefish and bottom fish were captured using bone hooks. Caribou were prized not only for their meat but for their skins, which were used in making clothing and for trading purposes. The hunting of caribou was done with bows and arrows and snares. Brown bear and moose were also hunted by the Eskimos. The brown bear skins were prized by all the Alaska Natives for bedding and as hangings at entrances in place of doors. Brown bears still outnumber people in the Bristol Bay region.

The Natives of Bristol Bay were also gatherers of berries and plants which were used as a source of food, such as greens, mushrooms, and seaweed. Other plants and berries were gathered for medicinal purposes.

Today, many Alaska Natives of the Bristol Bay region continue to live in the areas settled by their ancestors. They weave a rich culture filled with dancing, songs, stories, Native food gathering, hunting, and fishing – our Native way of life.