Aleutians East Borough

September 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Alaska, Community, History | Leave a comment
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I found by chance a website about some Aleutian villages in Alaska, called the Aleutians East Borough. They have a lot of municipal (school, jobs, the pipeline…) and economical information, as well as some historical facts that I resumed here:

Aleutians East Borough

Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove, Nelson Lagoon, Sand Point

Stretching from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula to the easternmost Aleutian Islands, the Aleutians East Borough is like no other place on earth.This is a wild, dramatic region bordered on one side by the North Pacific Ocean and the other by the Bering Sea. It has been home to generations of Aleut families since the Second Ice Age.Today, the region is renowned for its breathtaking beauty, warm, generous people and the rich diversity of seafood found in the waters around it.



The History of Akutan

Akutan churchAkutan was formed in 1878 when a number of Aleut families from surrounding islands established a village at this location. The Russian Orthodox Church supported this move and constructed a church at the site. Western Fur and Trading Co. built a fur storage and trading post, and its resident agent started a cod fishing business in the village. In 1912 the Pacific Whaling Company built a processing station, which operated until 1939.

Akutan’s proximity to the Bering Sea fishing grounds brought the crab and fish processing industry to the community in the late 40s, at first through the operation of floating processors, followed in the early 1980s by construction of a shore-based processing plant owned by Trident Seafoods.

The History Of Cold Bay

The Cold Bay area, near the southern edge of the Bering Land Bridge, probably played an important role in the migration of Asiatic people to North America during the last Ice Age. Recent archeological surveys have found the presence of numerous ancient refuse heaps, which suggest large populations of Native Aleut people at one time inhabited the area.During the coastal explorations by Europeans, Russian ships wintered in Bechevin Bay, about 40 miles west of Cold Bay. Count Feodor Lutke bestowed the name “Izembek” on the region in 1827 in honor of Karl Izembek, the surgeon aboard the sloop “Moller”. During the 1800s and early 1900s, subsistence hunters and trappers visited Cold Bay.The Japanese invasion of the Aleutians Islands during World War II stimulated the rapid construction of a series of American strategic bases. One of them was Fort Randall, a large air base built on the shores of Cold Bay in 1942. At the height of the Aleutian campaign, thousands of troops were stationed at Fort Randall. The base was abandoned after the end of the war, but the landscape still bears witness to its military history in the form of a myriad of roads, historical sites and, most importantly, its airport runways.

History of False Pass

False Pass man The Aleut name for the community is “Isanax,” which means “The Pass.” Shallow waters and the narrowness of the channel caused the village and strait to be called False Pass, but it is indeed a major throughway between the North Pacific and the Bering Sea for all but the largest vessels.

Originally homesteaded by William Gardner in the early 1900’s, the village began to grow when P.E. Harris established the first seafood cannery in False Pass in 1917. Many of the original buildings came from a cannery that was abandoned in Morzhovoi Bay, about 30 miles away. Natives immigrated from Morzhovoi, Sanak Island and Ikatan when the cannery was built. A post office was established in 1921. The cannery operated continuously, except for 1973 – 1976, when two hard winters depleted fish resources. It was eventually purchased by Peter Pan Seafoods and dominated the economy of the town for decades.

In 1981 most of the plant was consumed in a huge fire, although some buildings and facilities remain. Peter Pan still plays a vital role in the community with its private dock, fuel sales, and store. For more than 20 years the False Pass Tribal Council governed the community. Now a second class city, False Pass incorporated in 1990.

King Cove Description and History

The first recorded settler at the cove was a man named Robert King, who lived there in the 1880s. In 1911, Pacific American Fisheries built a large cannery and employed Aleut and other Native peoples, Asian workers, and Scandinavian workers. Many Native people came from the villages of Belkofski, Sanak and False Pass. The community incorporated as a first class city in 1947. Peter Pan Seafoods is the successor to PAF. The cannery has been operating since 1911 (it burned in the 1970s but was immediately rebuilt). It is the largest salmon cannery in North America and also processes crab, bottom fish, herring, and other fish year round. A dozen traditional use hunting and trapping camps have been noted around the shores of Cold Bay and Kinzarof Lagoon, dating from the first half of the twentieth century.

History of Sand Point

Sand Point was officially settled in 1887. The Lynde and Hough Company of San Francisco set up a supply station and cod fishing station on Humboldt Harbor. The town that grew up around this station adopted the name Sand Point. Aleuts from surrounding villages and Scandinavian fishermen were the first residents of the community. These influences can still be seen in the names and faces of Sand Point residents

Sand Point served as a repair and supply center for gold mining during the early 1900’s, but fish processing became the dominant activity in the 1930’s. The St. Nicholas Chapel, a Russian Orthodox church, was built in 1933 and is now on the National Register of Historical Places.

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Indigenous People Issues & Resources

August 15, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Education, Links, News, Organization | Leave a comment
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Thanks to a comment, two weeks ago I found this site, dedicated to indigenous people. It does not have information about all the tribes, but it keeps growing and its future seems promising!

Welcome to Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resource

Today, our world is experiencing a rapid decline in cultural diversity. One in five people in today’s world speak the same language: the Mandarin Chinese spoken by the largest single ethnic group in the world – the Han – whose 1.3 billion population represents 92 percent of the mainland Chinese population and 19 percent of the world’s population. Likewise, in India – the world’s second most populous country – there are 415 living, recognized languages, but the majority of people speak either Bengali or Hindi. Linguists recognize some 6,000 to 7,000 spoken languages, of which 5,000 or so are spoken by indigenous peoples who represent an estimated 6 percent of the world’s population.

Many of these people, and their language and culture, face a questionable future. The relatively rapid decline in language diversity parallels the decline in cultural diversity. These changes are due in part to the product of both historical relationships – imperialism, colonialism, Cold War economic development, and militarism – as well as cultural beliefs that rationalize or justify actions that serve the powerful at the cost of lands and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources is a new site that is slowly developing. Our goal is to provide information and resources for those concerned about, and for, indigenous peoples around the world. We recognize that our actions in the West effect indigenous peoples in all parts of the world – the consequences of water diversion and hydroelectric energy projects, militarization, global and national events, and consolidation of natural resource access, and the like are all having an unprecedented impact on the world’s indigenous peoples. But we can do something.

It is our belief that cross-cultural communication and understanding – as well as easily accessible information and resources – is one of the keys to helping indigenous peoples maintain their language, culture, and identity. We hope that you also share this belief. Diversity is one of the strongest components to a healthy world. Together we can help and make a difference – from large to small.

I will dig into it later on. Looks promising, doesn’t it?

Say it right: clarifying terminology

July 25, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Naming | 4 Comments
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Thanks again to Survival I found a small compilation of terminology related to indigenous peoples. Given the fact that pejorative terms have already been used for years, it is important to show respect using the right words:

There are a huge variety of terms used to describe the peoples most commonly called ‘tribal people’ or ‘indigenous people’. All of them are problematic; none are entirely satisfactory:

Some general terms

Tribe: means a distinct population, relatively small in number, with a common language and culture, dependent on their land for their livelihood, and not assimilated into the national society. This is perhaps the term most readily understood and used by the general public, and for that reason is commonly used by Survival (as in the expression ‘tribal peoples’). Many anthropologists dislike the term, believing it evokes the colonial era. Some English-speaking indigenous people, especially more politically active Indians in North America, also dislike it. However, many tribal peoples themselves use it. For example, almost all American Indians use the word ‘tribe’ to describe themselves to others, eg ‘the White Mountain Apache Tribe’, or the ‘Northern Arapaho Tribe’. Although nearly all tribal peoples are also indigenous, not all are: for example, many of the Thai hill tribes are not indigenous to the areas where they now live, having settled there relatively recently.

Native: the words ‘native’,’ aboriginal’, ‘autochthonous’ and ‘indigenous’ are virtually synonymous; in this context they mean a people who are originally from the area in which they still live. In other words, they have not arrived from somewhere else, but to all intents and purposes have developed in the land which is their ancestral territory. (Of course, according to current theories of human evolution, homo sapiens first evolved in Africa and subsequently emigrated to populate the globe, but as this is thought to have happened around 60,000 years ago, its practical ramifications can be ignored.) The terms ‘native people’ in Canada, and ‘native Americans’ in the USA, are perfectly acceptable in those countries, but the use of the English word ‘native’ elsewhere has rather colonial connotations, particularly in Africa, and should therefore be avoided if possible. ‘Nativos’ in Spanish has similar connotations in many South American countries (but not all).

Aboriginal: most commonly used in Australia, where it is slightly preferred (by some Aboriginal organisations) to the term ‘Aborigine’, although both are in common usage. The Spanish word ‘aborígen’ is common and perfectly acceptable in Argentina to describe that country’s indigenous people, though it is little used elsewhere in South America.

Indigenous: this is perhaps the term most often used by specialists and academics, although it is not in such common usage amongst the general public. Not all indigenous people are tribal: the Quechua and Aymara Indians of the Andes, for example, form what could best be described as an indigenous peasantry, being the majority rural, agrarian population in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and often well integrated into the national economy. The Spanish term ‘pueblos indígenas’ is regularly used throughout Latin America and is perfectly acceptable (whereas pueblos tribales is neither).

Autochthonous: apart from in India, this is hardly used in English. In French, the term ‘peuples autochtones’ is widespread in academic debate, though not common elsewhere.

Some place-specific terms:

Indian: applies in this context only to the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Although some, particularly in the academic world, may worry that it has disparaging overtones, it is very commonly used by the people themselves. Almost all North American Indians will use the word perfectly happily to describe themselves (obviously, there are exceptions). In the USA, some prefer it to ‘native American’, as they feel the latter implies they are simply another national minority like African Americans or Hispanic Americans, rather than people who lived in that land before the state of America was created. For Spanish usage, the word ‘indio’ generally (though not universally) has derogatory connotations, although some urbanised Indians in the Andes have reclaimed the term. The Portuguese word ‘indio’ is not derogatory in Brazil, where it is commonly used by Indians and their supporters.

Red Indian: almost never used by the people themselves, it now has racist overtones and is best avoided.

Amerindian: a term that has now fallen out of use, though it is still the word most often used in Guyana to describe that country’s indigenous people (‘Indian’ is not used there, as a large part of the national population is originally from India).

First nations: a phrase that has developed in Canada to describe that country’s indigenous people. It is not used elsewhere.

Well, there is still a lot of work to be done, but this is a beginning. I may look the terms up in some dictionaries, but that will be for another day post.

Meeting the Aleutians

July 13, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Naming | Leave a comment
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After another long break – not my choice, for sure – I’ll try to continue with this huge and quite impossible project. I was reading I don’t know what on the Internet and I ended up in the Wikipedia page for the entry “aleut”. Their lands remind my a “tail” of an exotic animal, just where Alaska finishes. You can see that in the map of this older entry. It would be amazing to travel there! This is what I found out:

The Aleuts

The Aleuts (self-denomination: Unangax̂, Unangan or Unanga) are the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, United States and Kamchatka Krai, Russia. The homeland of the Aleuts includes the Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands, the Shumagin Islands, and the far western part of the Alaska Peninsula. During the 19th century, the Aleuts were deported from the Aleutian Islands to the Commander Islands (now part of Kamchatka Krai) by the Russian-American Company.

History

After the arrival of missionaries in the late 18th century, many Aleuts became Christian by joining the Russian Orthodox Church. One of the earliest Christian martyrs in North America was Saint Peter the Aleut.

In 18th century, Russian furriers established settlements on the islands and exploited the people. (See Early history)

There was a recorded revolt against Russian workers in Amchitka in 1784. It started from the exhaustion of necessities that the Russians provided to local people in return for furs they had made. (See: Aleuts’ revolt)

In 1811, Aleuts went to San Nicholas to hunt. There was argument over paying the Nicoleño for being allowed to hunt on their island, a battle began almost all of the native men were killed. By 1853, only one native was left. (See Island of the Blue Dolphins)

Prior to major influence from outside, there were approximately 25,000 Aleuts on the archipelago. Barbarities by outside corporations and foreign diseases eventually reduced the population to one-tenth this number. Further declines led to a 1910 Census count of 1,491 Aleuts.

In 1942, during World War 2, Japanese forces occupied Attu and Kiska Islands in the western Aleutians, and later transported captive Attu Islanders to Hokkaidō, where they were held as prisoners of war. Hundreds more Aleuts from the western chain and the Pribilofs were evacuated by the United States government during WW2 and placed in internment camps in southeast Alaska, where many died. The Aleut Restitution Act of 1988 was an attempt by Congress to compensate the survivors.

The World War II campaign to retake Attu and Kiska was a significant component of the operations of the Asian theater.

Culture

Aleuts constructed partially underground houses called barabaras. According to Lillie McGarvey, a 20th-century Aleut leader, barabaras keep “occupants dry from the frequent rains, warm at all times, and snugly sheltered from the high winds common to the area”.

Traditional arts of the Aleuts include hunting, weapon-making, building of baidarkas (special hunting boats), and weaving. 19th century craftsmen were famed for their ornate wooden hunting hats, which feature elaborate and colorful designs and may be trimmed with sea lion whiskers, feathers, and ivory. Aleut seamstresses created finely stitched waterproof parkas from seal gut, and some women still master the skill of weaving fine baskets from rye and beach grass.

Aleut basketry is some of the finest in the world, and the tradition began in prehistoric times. Early Aleut women created baskets and woven mats of exceptional technical quality using only an elongated and sharpened thumbnail as a tool. Today, Aleut weavers continue to produce woven pieces of a remarkable cloth-like texture, works of modern art with roots in ancient tradition. The Aleut term for grass basket is qiigam aygaaxsii.

Language

While English and Russian are the dominant languages used by Aleuts living in the US and Russia respectively, the Aleut language is still spoken by several hundred people. The language belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language family and includes three dialect groupings: Eastern Aleut, spoken on the Eastern Aleutian, Shumagin, Fox and Pribilof islands; Atkan, spoken on Atka and Bering islands; and the now extinct Attuan dialect. The Pribilof Islands boast the highest number of active speakers of Aleutian.

In popular culture

In Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, the character Raven is an Aleut harpooner seeking revenge for the US’s nuclear testing on Amchitka. The Aleut tribes are also the subject of the Sue Harrison’s Ivory Carver Trilogy that includes Mother Earth Father Sky, My Sister the Moon, and Brother Wind, in addition to being the subject of Irving Warner’s 2007 historical novel about the Attuans held as prisoners of war in Japan, “The War Journal of Lila Ann Smith”.

The entry on Wikipedia is quite short, but the books listed on the bottom look like interesting summer readings. Maybe it would be a good idea to start gathering the titles of books and novels related with the subject of the blog, as I already do with the links. What do you thing?

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