About The Athabascans The Natives that live in Interior Alaska, live in some of the harshest continental living climates from extreme cold to extreme heat. In the winter it is common for temperatures to be in the -50’s, and in the summer temperatures can be as hot as being in the 80’s.
Athabascans have lived in an environment with lots of wooded area, rivers and extreme temperatures for centuries and have adapted to live in them.
The name “Athabasca” comes from the Lake and was given by the Cree Indians who lived to the east of “Lake Athabasca” The name also refers to the large language family which the languages of all Athabascan Indians are part of There are a total of 11 different languages Some in Canada, California and Oregon, and in the Apache and Navajo in the Southern US They call themselves “Den’a” or “the people”
Each of the Athabascan language groups had their own dialect In the past, each dialect corresponded with a social and geographical group called a “regional band”, which was made up of groups from as small as 30 to as large as 100 nuclear families Nuclear families are made up of parents and their ungrown children
Their View On The Land They have adapted their way of life over the centuries to evolve so that they can live with their enivronment Their worldview consists of a naturalistic explanation that links nature and life as one This is a system that maintains unity in the human, natural, and spirit worlds In the seen and unseen worlds, all things have spirits and are connected Their holistic view is evident in Dan’a ceremonies, mainly the ones expressed in the sharing of water and food and often in the use of fire
Issues The Alberta Oil Sands The chemicals that the oil company uses to extract the oil from the bitamen washes into the rivers and runs down into the native reserves These chemicals infect their water supplies, fish, and has caused rare forms of cancer to increase rapidly among the Natives. A lot of the treaties that both Canadians and Natives have signed are being broken
Social Groupings There are three major principles that affected social groupings of the Alaskan Athabascans: 1. Pragmatism. Group formation was dependent on the number of people who could most efficiently utilize the resources available Different resources required different numbers of people
A person belonged to many different groupings in a year. For example, a summer fishing camp would often bring an entire regional band together In winter, the regional bands would split up into smaller groups called “local bands” Each local band had their own territory within the regional territory Local bands lived together and travelled the territory together
2. Kinship. Local band members were related in some way either on the mother’s side or the father’s A person who belonged to the same “side”, “clan” or “sib” as his mother, and all members of the same “sib” were relatives of a very special nature One couldn’t marry someone of the same sib, but one could marry memebers from one’s father’s sib Most of the Athabascan groups recognized 3 sibs, and each sib was in some cases divided into smaller family units
In some areas sibs are no longer used and neither Indians or anthropologists are sure of the total importance which the sibs had in pre- contact days Wars and potlatches (gatherings) were sib affairs
3. Individual Choice. Each person was free to choose his local band affiliation within certain bounds A person was accepted into a band only if he had relatives in that band Each regional band had its own lifestyle, beliefs and customs Each regional band collected their food different times of year in different ways. For example, groups who lived in the Cook Inlet took advantage of the large amounts of sea mammals that were available to them.
The Ingalik and Lower Koyukon groups who lived in the Lower Yukon, took advantage of the large amounts of fish and spent most of their year harvesting fish then the groups farther inland. The Chandalar Kutchin lived in the foothills of the Brooks Range and spent most of their year hunting caribou and mountain sheep
Culture- Social Organization Children belong to the mother’s clan not the father’s Elders made the decisions concerning marriage, leadership, and trading customs The core of the traditional culture was a woman and her brother and their two families In these situations, the brother and his sister’s husband would become hinting partners for life This arrangement sometimes started when the sister gets married
Culture- Clothing Traditional clothing reflects the resources around them Clothing was mostly made of caribou and moose hide Moccasins made from these hides were important parts of the wardrobe The styles of moccasins vary depending on the conditions Both men and women are adept at sewing, but women traditionally did most of the skin sewing
Culture- Transportation and Trade Athabascans used canoes made of birch bark, moose hide, and cottonwood All Athabascans used sleds with and without dogs, snowshoes, and dogs as pack animals
Culture- Regalia Traditional regalia varies from region to region Regalia sometimes includes men’s beaded jackets, dentalium shell necklaces which were worn by chiefs, men and women’s beaded tunics, and women’s beaded dancing shoes
Traditions Activities were often marked by the passing moons, with each being named according to the changing conditions. For example: “When the first king salmon oomes”, “When the moose lose their antlers” and “little crust lands on snow” etc. The winter was “the time we gathered together” When scattered families would return to their winter villages, they hunted smaller animals close by and gathered for potlaches and other community celebrations
In some cases the brother would take social responsibility for training and socializing his sister’s children, so that they would grow up knowing about their clans history and customs
Beliefs The Athabascan’s believed that all creatures, and sometimes inanimate objects, had spirits that were active and powerful components of those creatures The spirits enabled the animals to know more than was immediately apparent to them. For example, if the humans displeased one of the animal spirits then that animal would remain aloof and the people would starve. Because of this, there were very definite rules that people had to follow based on the animal and their beliefs on the animal spirit
The rules differed in each area, but the concept was the same The animal spirit beliefs were just extensions of what hunter knew of their environment, and thought that if he knew an animal should be in a certain spot and they weren’t there, then the people had committed a taboo and they would perform a ceremony to try and appease the spirit The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that connects one family. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.
Religion and Myths Important mythical figures: raven, betohoh, nik’il’eena There are many spirit stories that the Athabascans believe in. They believe that once you have taken a muskrats cache, then you must pay them back with something or the muskrat will take all the meat from their cache, or that if they don’t burst a bear’s eye after killing it then the person who killed the bear will go blind.
Rituals Water, food, fire, song, and dance are important aspects of rituals The Athabascan Stick Dance: It is a ritual that is held for one week every March by the Alaskan Indians The dance is named after the spruce role, which is the central symbol of the ceremony The purpose of the ceremony is to help mourn the male members of the tribe who have died, and to give comfort and support to the grieving family members
This celebration is not annual and can be held 3 or 4 years apart The sponsors of the ceremony are the widows of the deceased men, along with other family members. The ceremony takes place in the tribe’s central hall or community center, where it begins on a Monday Every evening from Monday through Thursday people gather to participate in the potlach, which is a ceremonial feast; or to food in a less formal manner The actual Stickdance doesn’t take place until the Friday evening, and there could be hundreds in attendance since the ceremony can be performed for any males who have died since the last ceremony
People also sing and dance during the ceremony, and get together in small groups to share their memories of the men who have died The men’s role in the dance is to up a tall spruce pole in the center of their community hall, for the family and friends to decorate with their gifts Everyone then dances around the pole in a sloe shuffle and chant ritual songs all night, and privately meditating about those who have died
The will then get taken down the next morning, where it will be broken up and thrown into the Yukon River The rest of the weekend is taken up with activities to help the family with their loss Some men are chosen to represent the dead by wearing their cloths The family then distributes gifts that they have either made or purchased to everyone who attended the dance as a way to show their appreciation of their friendship and support They then feast on more Native Indian foods
About the Ottawa Tribe They refer to themselves as the original peoples There are 15,000 Ottawa natives today that live in Ontario, Oklahoma, and Michigan They are known for their beadwork and basketry
Issues The issue that the Ottawa tribe faces is displacement. They have been pushed from their homelands, and have been deported as far as Oklahoma.
Beliefs Spirituality is one of the most important responsibility and is to be fulfill in order to honor the pimadazin there are 7 ways to do this: purity in mind, purity in body, humility, honesty, love, and respect Ottawa Indians were given three things to help guide them through life: totem, Manitou, midewiwin the totem was an animal spirit that represented a clan. For example, a bear, turtle, crane, or otter
Religion and Myths Myth: The Water Lynx a mythological creature that is believed to be a cross between a cougar and a dragon It is believed to be a dangerous monster who lives deep in the water and who made men and women drown
Rituals The Feast of the Dead an celebration that takes place on All Saints' Day and is performed to nourish the spirits of the deceased a sacred fire is also built everyone is expected to eat all of their food, and any extras are burned as an offering
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