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Peoples of Alaska and their Eskimo Culture

Updated September 24, 2022

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Peoples of Alaska and their Eskimo Culture essay

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Alaska is still the last frontier in the minds of many Americans. Interest in the “Great Land” has increased sharply since Alaska The Native became a full fledged state in January o f 1959. In spite of this great interest, many Americans know very little of the Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts (Al-ee-oots) who live in the remote regions. At the time Alaska was discovered in 1741 by Vitus Bering, Alaska Natives populated all parts of Alaska including the Bering Strait Region. Although there is still some disagreement among anthropologists concerning the origin of the American Indians and Eskimos, the great majority believe that these people migrated across the Bering Strait from Asia.

Apparently this migration occurred in successive waves over thousands of years. The northern Eskimo groups appear to be the most recent immigrants and have settled along the coast of the Arctic Ocean from Little Diomede Island to Greenland. In Alaska, the Natives lived within well defined regions and there was little mixing of ethnic groups. As in any culture, the way of life was dictated by the availability of renewable resources. In Southeast Alaska, the salmon, deer and other plentiful foods permitted the Tlingits, Tsimpshians and Haidas to settle in permanent villages and develop a culture rich in art.

The Athapaskan Indians of the Alaskan Interior, on the other hand, became wanderers following the migrating caribou herds and taking advantage of seasonal abundance of fish, water fowl and other game. The Eskimo people, like the Tlingits, depended upon the sea for life. However, a more hostile climate and fewer resources required a far different adaptation resulting in their unique cultural traditions. The Eskimos call themselves Inuit or “Real People”.

The impact of the 20th Century culture has brought many changes among all the Native people, some good and some unfortunate. As a result, most Eskimos and Indians live in a dual cash based and traditional lifestyle. According to the Alaska Native Commission Final Report Volume II, pg. 91, in 1990 Alaska Natives numbered 85,698 and constitute just over 15 percent of the state’s total population. Of this number, 62 percent of Alaska Natives (about 52,000) live in rural Alaska. The Bering Straits Region is located in Northwest Alaska, just south of the Arctic Circle.

The regional boundaries extend 230 miles east to west and 230 miles north to south and encompass an area of over 26,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of West Virginia. There are three culturally distinct groups of Inuit people who inhabit the region. Inupiat reside on the Seward Peninsula and the King and Diomede Islands. The Central Yupik primarily reside in the villages south of Unalakleet, and Siberian Yupik live on St. Lawrence Island.

The latter group is closely related culturally and linguistically to Chukotka people of the Russian Far East. The Eskimo people have lived in this region as an identifiable culture for at least 3,000 years; the earliest documented evidence of human habitation dates back I 0,000 to I 1,000 years. Settlements concentrate along the coast and river systems, for the sea was and is the principal focus of human activities. The population of the Bering Straits Region is approximately 8,890. Eskimos comprise 78% of the population (6,962).

There are 17 year-round village settlements in the region that range in population from 123 to 646. Nome is the largest community in the region and has roughly 3,900 people. Nome is the transportation, government and service hub for the region. The city of Nome has different ethnic, social and economic features than the villages.

Only a little over a half of Nome’s residents are Natives, while in most villages, 90% to 95% of residents are Native.

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Peoples of Alaska and their Eskimo Culture. (2019, Apr 04). Retrieved from