"There is a lot more to the details of the brief history given, but over all my hope is that everyone can recognize that Alutiiq people are strong people. We are rich in culture, heritage and pride. Though our native communities may be plagued with a painful past, and a trail leading up to now full of addiction, racism, stereotypes, domestic violence, and assimilation; we are adamant about moving forward. Please join us in delighting in the cultural revitalization that is happening here in Kodiak and with the Alutiiq people."
Who are the Alutiiq People?:
The Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) peoples live in towns,
villages and cities in southern Alaska along the coastline.
Prior to the Russian contact and conquest that took
place in the late 18th century the Alutiiq people lived in villages
under the leadership of chiefs. They performed ceremonies and festivals where
they would sing and dance wearing elaborate clothing. Also, wearing wooden
masks often with intricate adornments and accompanied by tattoos, piercings and
body paint. Today we practice Alutiiq dancing proudly often adorning ourselves
in regalia based off of traditional styles, face paint reflecting what our ancestors
had as tattoo and traditional and contemporary masks. As an Alutiiq Dancer I am
grateful to sing the words of my ancestors and of those of recent years who
have worked very hard to preserve the culture of Alutiiq Dance.
Alutiiq culture was also influenced by other Alaska
Native cultures and trading as we see reflected in artifacts and artwork styles
as well as supplies used to construct such works. I have often noticed this in
collections of artifacts that I have been privileged to see.
1784–1818, often referred to as the
"darkest period” of Alutiiq history holds a piece of sad history that is not often talked about. Please read about the Awa’uq
Massacure- Alaskas version of the Wounded Knee. :
The Russians went to the
settlement and carried out a terrible blood bath. Only a few [people] were
able to flee to Angyahtalek in baidarkas; 300 Koniags were shot by the
Russians. This happened in April. When our people revisited the place in the
summer the stench of the corpses lying on the shore polluted the air so badly
that none could stay there, and since then the island has been uninhabited.
After this every chief had to surrender his children as hostages; I was saved
only by my father's begging and many sea otter pelts.
When Russian Fur trade companies infested Alaska it severely depleted the Alutiiq population. This was due to conflict, disease and Russian rule not allowing for traditional practices to continue. As Alutiiq people, we still reap the repercussions of loss of culture started by this action.
Now you can see the Orthodox Church is prominent in every village. Russian dishes are made and recipes handed down using local subsistence food. Even the Alutiiq language has reflections of Russian words in it. The Russians original contact with the Natives may have been a dark one but out of it Alutiiq people have adapted using pieces of what they had to make their life work as it changed.
American rule after 1867 brought changes. American immigrants arrived to what was now Alaska and often married into Alutiiq communities. New industries were established such as commercial fishing, fox farming, and mining. There was also the introduction of schools to Native children, children were allowed to speak only English, this played a part in the almost abolishment of the Alutiiq language. Please read below about American Indian boarding school:
Though much of the Alutiiq community is modernized you can often see broken bits and pieces of our traditional heritage shine through. Throughout the year you can observe the continuance of hunting and fishing, this includes salmon, seals, caribou, moose, bears and many more types of fish and animals. There is also the gathering of salmon berries and other wild foods harvested for use in traditional and non-tradition ways. You can witness Alutiiq style arts ranging from very traditional to very contemporary. There is also the revitalization of the Alutiiq language and the continuance of Alutiiq Dance.
There is a lot more to the details of the brief history given above, but over all my hope is that everyone can recognize that Alutiiq people are strong people. We are rich in culture, heritage and pride. Though our native communities may be plagued with a painful past, and a trail leading up to now full of addiction, racism, stereotypes, domestic violence, and assimilation; we are adamant about moving forward. Please join us in delighting in the cultural revitalization that is happening here in Kodiak and with the Alutiiq people.