Thursday, December 9, 2010


          I choose to show this bowl because it is waterproof, it is made  into a bowl with seal gut.  Just to show the range of inventions the natives produced with the resorces they have in their region of Alaska.
         Natives around Alaska invented baskets, bags to assist their hunters with hunting and assist the women with gathering roots and berries and for storing food and clothing to keep them dry.  Everything they did was to prevent starvation through out the year.


             I think that because the Deg Hit’an bordered with so many different natives, and they traded with the Eskimos and Holliachuk, is why the epidemic hit their region twice once in 1912 and again in 1927. 
Although there was a vaccination, the smallpox epidemic continued through the 1840’s.  The epidemic was still hitting the Yukon valley very hard.  By the time the vaccination arrived for the Deg Hit’an region it was to wide spread to get under control.  The Russians were worried about how the epidemic would affect the fur supply.
Before Anvik was hit with the small pox epidemic Glazunov vaguely recorded their population; he counted 10 sod subterranean houses and estimated around 240 residents.  Eight years later Zagoskin counted 120 Deg Hit’an’s living in 5 sod subterranean houses.  Even if the records were insufficient the total loses was devastating.  In 1843 and 1844, Zagoskin visited villages along the Innoko and Yukon River.  In Shageluk there were 5 sod subterranean housed and aproximatly70 Deg Hit’an people.  In Anvik there were also 5 houses and approximately 120 Deg Hit’an people.  In Bonasila had 3 houses with 44 Deg Hit’an people.  By 1930 Bonasila was no longer inhabited.  Usually one or two nuclear families lived in one sod subterranean house (Vanstone, 1976, vol. 71). 

According to the United States 2000 Census the following villages’ populations are:  Anvik, Shageluk 129, Holy Cross 227 and McGrath. 

Gold Rush

When gold was found the natives weren’t treated as good as they were for the fur rush.  The miners were first drawn to Canada where gold was discovered on the Stewart River.  The gold rush caused a flood of non-natives in 1884 to the 1920’s.  With each discovery bringing more non-native people into Athabascan territory.  For about nine years gold was discovered on the Yukon from Birch Creek, where Circle City was built, to Mission Creek, the site of Eagle.  In 1887 the United States bought Alaska from Russia.  In 1897 gold was found on the Klondike River and it attracted the largest amount of people to Alaska.  By then the food supply the Alaska Commercial Company was not enough.  They also had to go through Canada on their way to Alaska and when they did they had to adhere to the Canadians laws.  The miners did not like that so they petitioned the US Government to make paths, and they did.  The Alaskan natives had to look towards the whites for food because the fur bearing animals were so sparse they were destitute (Simeone, 1982). 
Although the gold rush wasn’t in Deg Hit’an territory they prospered from the fur trading industry.  The amount of boats increased to somewhere between thirty and forty steamboats by 1898.  The Deg Hit’an worked as pilots and deck hands on the steamboats.  Supplying the steamboats with wood was a job.  With the jobs came the increase of association with the whites and their awareness of money.  When the fur trading industry failed the Deg Hit’an lost their income. 
Sometime in 1910 gold was found by the Iditarod River.  The Alaska Commercial Company set up their store and the Deg Hit’an weren’t able to prosper.  With the gold rush natives started to demand money instead of goods.  By 1920 the gold mining ended and the town was abandoned.  The natives were also shown harvesting tools that changed their way of fishing.  The fish wheel lessened the work load on the men and increased the work load for the women.

Trading Post

The Russians main reason for exploring was for fur, it was in demand in Russia, they landed on Kodiak first and then made their way up the west coast of Alaska with the natives as their escorts, the natives were slaves.  The Russian traders started up the Yukon River around the 1833 and some how communicated with the natives about what they had to offer in traded for fur (Vanstone, 1979).  They determined the location that would possibly give them an upper hand in the fur industry and in 1835 St. Michaels was developed.  The Deg Hit’an had a history of trading with the Yupik, who have been trading with the Russians, and they were already accustomed to some of the goods the Russians had to offer.  For example, metal. tobacco, pots and pans.  This location was accessible to the natives and a good location to explore for fur availability.  The Deg Hit’an rarely came in contact with the Russians; just a few men went to go trade with them and they camped outside of the post. 

Fish Skin Bag Process

According to Hickman (1987) A very skilled Athabascan women would cut off the fish head and tail, cut the stomach open and clean it out, peel the skin up from the stomach towards the back of the fish, then peeled the skin from the head towards the tail cutting off the fins when they were reached and removing the skin right off the fish.  Then she would soak the skin in water, to make it easier to scrape the scales and fish tissue off the skin, using a tool made out of bone or seashell.  The fish was repaired where the fins were cut off by using grass to sew the opening together using a seal esophagus, which was specifically taken from between the stomach and throat, as a patch.  They used a baby boys' urine, that wasn’t weaned from his mother, to soak the fish skin and if stronger fish skin was needed they used a boys' urine at the time his voice was changing.  The longer the fish skin was soaked the softer it got.  It could be soaked anywhere from half a day to overnight.  Then it was washed with Naptha soap and rinsed out and soaked with aspen shavings, they believed this made the fish skin stronger.  At this time the skin can be dyed.  Although, it was rarely done because it was a lot of work and the coloring was faint.  She would sew the fish skins together using sinew or grass.  To strengthen the fish skin bag a strip of tanned caribou hide was sewn between two layers of fish skin.  Depending on what supplies the seamstress had collected through the seasons; she would decorate the bag with dyed fish skin, reindeer hair and sewed them on in patterns.  The final step was to put sand or dry grass in it to keep the shape while the bag is drying.  Like I said it was a long process to make a fish skin bag.   

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Deg Hit'an, Athabascan

"Ingalik," is a derogatory Eskimo description of the Deg Hit’an, Athabascan.  There are four different groupings inside of the Deg Hit’an clan.  Which are the Anvik Deg Hit’an, Shageluk Deg Hit’an, Holikachuk Deg Hit’an, Bonasilia Deg Hit’an, which is also their village name or the name of the river they reside along.
 Before any explorers came to Alaska all the natives survived off the land.  They knew how to read the weather, how to make weapons and dishes out of wood, bones and horns, to hunt for food, they made clothing out of furs and skins, learned what kind of plants were poisonous and what kind of plants help the healing process, they learned how to preserve food for the winter so they wouldn’t starve, their every day task were done in order to survive in the freezing cold winters.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fish Skin Bag, "Notchidl"

This fish skin bag was found in the Deg Hit' an region of Alaska located in the midwest.   They traded with the Yupik so the Yupik also made bags and clothing out of fish skin.  Fish skins are waterproof and was made into bags to keep clothing dry on hunting trips.  The women used the bags for storing clothing for traveling from summer camp to winter encampment and storing food for the winter. In the original Deg Hit’an Athabascan culture  they believed that when they respected all animals, by utilizing all parts of the animal they killed, the food source would return the next year.  I found the fish skin bag very interesting because when I ate fish the skin was soft and I never imagined that it could be strong enough to make a bag.  Following this belief one smart person figured that if a fish can survive under water it’s skin must repel water.