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Edited by Dana G. Anderson

Any part of this publication may be used for educational purposes if complete credit is given to the contributors, the State of Alaska and Alaska Pacific University. Copyright 1980 by Dana G. Anderson


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The Village of Korovinski
Untitled 1
Untitled 2
Tools From Animals
Retaking Kiska
Aleut Women
Russia Discovers the Pribilofs
Aleut Hats of the Past
Untitled 3
Ancient Rock Painting
Untitled 4
The Village of Atka
Untitled 5
Untitled 6
Food for the Aleuts
The Battle of Attu
Untitled 7
Aleuts and the Whale
Aleut Medicine
Aleut History
Answers to Questions

As with any publication, the list of supporters is infinite. I wish to thank all who helped me with this project. Special thanks to Dr. Jane L. Evanson, Dr. Richard Dauenhauer, Mary Pope, Dr. Jan Ingram, Nancy Larsen, Dr. David Alexander, and my "best friend" and husband, Don.


Dana Anderson

Sandra Opalka
Dorothy Anderson N. Lyn Peterson
Yvonne Cavanaugh Carolee Pollock
Cecil DePedro Carol Scukanec
Jane Evanson Tom Shugak
Marilyn Heeter Cheryl Smith
Judie Lape Joanne Townsend
Allen Lee Lewis Weaver
Amy Lohr Jimmie Williams
Robert Nielsen Loraine Young




Aleuts lived on the Spit near Atka 2,000 years ago. The village of Korovinski was large and active. Although no written records exist before the Russians came, modern researchers can tell what happened. They dig big holes in the ground, and study the layers of dirt and the things buried there. They have found bone and stone awls, needles, fish hooks, spear points, round grinding stones wedges, and stone lamps.

One layer tells of a very bad time. It was about 500 years ago. Eight inches of volcanic ash forms that layer. No tools are in it. The people had been forced to leave.

Late in the 1700's, about 200 years ago, both Aleuts and their Russian rulers lived in the village. Those layers have sheets of copper, parts of old shoes, and bits of broken china.

Then, again, appears a time when the village was empty. This was only about 100 years ago. Some people believe the volcano frightened the villagers away.

Korovinski is still there. Lush grass grows where Russian buildings stood. Broken driftwood and sod fences guard old vegetable gardens. And off the Spit, an Aleut boy fishes for the family dinner.


The main topic of this article is

(1) a village
(2) a spit
(3) volcanic ash

Aleut Garment


Some of the first visitors to the Aleutian Islands arrived in 1741. They described two chief garments worn by the people. One of these garments was a raincoat. It was made from gut of large animals. Gut from sea lions, whales, walrus and bear were commonly used. The gut was dried. And to keep it from cracking, it was rubbed with oil.

After being treated with oil, the gut was cut into rectangles. The pieces were sewn together using a stitch like the seam in a modern pair of blue jeans. Ornaments sewn into the seam also reinforced the seam. This garment had a slightly flaired style with closed front and loose sleeves. It was long, ending well below the knee. Drawstrings secured the hood and sleeves.



A good title for this article is

(1) Whale and Bear Gut
(2) A Raincoat
(3) Curing Hides


Aleut Basket


Tall wild rye grass grows in the Aleutian Islands. These grasses provided Aleuts with many every-day items. When the grass turned white, it was gathered for drying and curing. Once dried, the grass kept a very long time--often ten years or more.

Grass even became building material. People built houses that were partly below ground. But above ground the sides were driftwood or whale bone. Sod was laid over the sides. Grass was stuffed between the sod blocks. This made the house warm and dry.

Long grass stems braided together made cords. These had many uses. An oil lamp burned a cord for a wick. People made strong rope by braiding the cords.

Aleuts were master weavers. They made grass mats of all sizes. Some were rugs. Some were room dividers. Clothing was woven especially for the wearer and fit perfectly. One garment was a tunic-like shirt of fine grass. Woven boots, shaped like a sock lined sea lion or sealskin footgear.

But the Aleut weavers were best known for their baskets. Aleut women grew their fingernails long to split the grass. Sometimes colored yarn or thread was used to make designs.

Captain Cook in 1778 at Unalaska noted that there were "baskets of grass which are both strong and beautiful." Today many of these baskets are in art collections.


A good title for this passage would be

(1) Captain Cook visits Unalaska
(2) Uses of Grass by Aleuts
(3) Building a House





The tools the Aleuts used were made from whales, birds, seals, sea lions and drift wood. Spoons were made from breast bones of ducks. Bone wedges were used for splitting fire wood. Fishhooks were made by lashing two small bones together. Bird skins and whale intestines were made into rain gear. The gut or intestines were also made into translucent windows for their homes.

Seal and sea lion bladders or stomachs were used for storing fat, and as floats. The floats prevented wounded sea mammals from sinking. They also served as markers or buoys. The markers were whitened and used to guide the hunters when they were out of sight of land. They were dropped over the side of the boat at intervals so the hunters could see one marker from the other. To make sure the hunters could get them back, they were tied to each other by cord made from sinew.

What we can learn from the tools Aleuts left behind shows that they made clever use of the resources available to them.



This article is about

(1) types of tools
(2) boat equipment
(3) animal habits




For six weeks United States bombs pounded the island. The young soldiers shot at anything that moved. Sometimes they made mistakes.

At last the men felt that they were ready. They went ashore August 13, 1943. The United States had 29,000 men and Canada had 5,300 men. There were 100 warships backing them up.

They landed carefully. They sneaked around looking for the enemy. Some men shot each other without knowing it. They searched over the whole island.

There were no Japanese.

Later on, the United States found out the Japanese had left in July. Rear-Admiral Kimura had shipped his men out. He had loaded over 5,000 men on his ships in 55 minutes.

People still don't know how he did it so fast. They don't know why the United States radar missed them leaving.

These battles did nothing to win or lose the war All the young lives were lost for nothing. Aleuts lost their homes and were imprisoned for nothing. It is one of many sad stories of war.


The main topic of this article is

(1) an escape
(2) a battle
(3) an island

Aleut Woman



Aleut women help important places in their society. Famous as weavers, they were equally skills in other ways.

The women excelled as doctors and nurses. They knew which wild plant controlled bleeding and which healed open cuts. They knew which plant cured fish poisoning. They mixed certain herbs with goose fat for coughs and fevers. They applied a different mixture of herbs to swollen joints and muscles.

Aleut women were expert at food preparation. They preserved the meat and fish by drying it in the open air on poles. Or they smoked it over an open fire. They gathered berries in the fall. Blueberries and cranberries were kept a long time in finely woven baskets filled with fresh water.

The women were skilled seamstresses. They made parkas that were both warm and dry. The seams were sewn with a bone needle threaded with fine sinew. Along each seam they stitched in twisted and braided animal hairs. These decorations formed hooks and tassles.

Aleut women were very skillful people. Important roles were delegated to them.


The main topic of this article is

(1) sewing
(2) women
(3) smoked fish




Many men searched the North Pacific and Bering Sea for fur seals in the late 18th century. In June of 1786, Gerassim Pribylov discovered the island of St. George.

Before Pribylov, others searched the Bering Sea for fur seal islands. Their attempts were in vain. Some looked for the islands between Japan and Oregon where the water was not as rough as the Bering Sea.

Pribylov heard an Aleut legend about rich fur seal islands. After hearing the legend, he searched even harder for the islands.

At last Pribylov found St. George Island, which he named after his ship. Since it was late fall, he went back to Unalaska for supplies and to dock for the winter.

A small band of Russians stayed on St. George to collect furs for spring. The men could see another island on the horizon, and in clear weather, they sailed over to it. They named it St. Peter and St. Paul. The name has been changed to St. Paul.

Later that summer, Pribylov's ship came back for the seal furs and his men.

Pribilov's discovery caused more men to sail to the fur seal islands. They killed the seals all year, nearly causing these seals to become extinct.


This article is about

(1) seals
(2) a discovery
(3) a legend

Aleut Hat


Aleut hats of the past were unusual and colorful. They were made of thin wood bent in the shape of a wide cone. The hats were decorated with carving and color. Animal figures, circles and lines were hung from the back. Only rich and honored men wore these costly hats.


Aleut hats were

(1) decorated
(2) plain
(3) soft


A long time ago, Aleuts traveled only by skin boats. These long and narrow boats were light and speedy. In years past, they were steered by long poles.

Aleuts made these boats from bone or wood frames. They covered the frames with seal or otter skins. Often it took a whole year to make a boat. Another kind of cover fit over the top of the skin boat. This was made of whale gut. Holes were cut into this top cover.

The hunter climbed into the boat from above. He sat down and pulled the gut cover up as far as his armpits t to keep out the water.

The bravest Aleuts hunted from boats made for one man. Once in a while, boats made for two hunters were used. An old man and a boy might hunt together in this kind of boat.

When the Russians came, too many sea animals were hunted. It was hard to find skins to cover the boat frames. Boats wee no longer made in the old way.


The best title for this article is

(1) Brave Aleuts
(2) Skin Boats
(3) Bone Frames

Rock Painting



Long ago hunters painted pictures on rocks. These pictures are called PETROGLYPHS. Some petroglyph sites are located around Cook Inlet on the western part of Clam Cover. These pictures are on an overhanging rock and are said to be between 200 and 300 years old.

A mixture of "chalk stone", seal oil and water formed a paste which left a red or orange color. When it rained, the iron from the "chalk stone" oxidized leaving a rust colored stain. The seal oil held the moisture until the rock was permanently stained. Some of the pictures on the rock look like whales, deer, bear, and people.

Next time you are in a boat on Cook Inlet, look up at weathered rocks. You may discover petroglyphs!


This article is about

(1) chalkstone
(2) Skin Boats
(3) Cook Inlet



Eastern Aleuts developed a way to mummify their dead. To do this, they made a hole in the chest of the dead person. The insides were taken out through the hole. The body was then stuffed with dry moss.

Grease was rendered from the body’s brain. It was rubbed on the body’s skin which helped to preserve the body.

The body was then wrapped in a special coat. The coats were made from woven grass matting, bird feathers, or fur. The body was bound into a mummy bundle when it was done. Then it was put in the cave. Often the belongings of the dead were also put in the cave.

Many of these mummies were put in caves over a thousand years ago. Yet the bodies are still well preserved. Some of them are in life-like positions, and some are in skin boats. Others are hung from the cave walls by thongs under the armpits.


The best title for this article is

(1) Bodies in Skin Boats
(2) Coats for the Dead
(3) Early Aleut Mummies


The village of Atka is on Atka Island. It is 1,100 air miles from Anchorage. It is 90 air miles east of Adak.

People have live on Atka Island for 2,000 years. There is now one village on the island. It is also called Atka. People began living in the current village of Atka in the 1860’s.

In June of 1977, ninety-two people were living in Atka. There were 21 houses, and a Russian Orthodox Church. Also, there was an old school and a new school building.

Many people in Atka are subsistence hunters. Some earn money from jobs outside the village. They may fish for crab and salmon at other places in the Aleutian Chain.

It is not easy to get to Atka. There is no airstrip. Goods and people must arrive by boat. Strong winds, high waves and fog can make it hard for boats to land.

Atka is further west than any other village on the Aleutian Island Chain. It is the most isolated village in the Aleutians.


The place most talked about in this article

(1) The Russian Orthodox Church
(2) Adak Island
(3) Atka Village



About 100 people live in Perryville, a village located on the Alaska Peninsula. Some of the people in Perryville use the BANYA.

Banya is a Russian word which means bath house. At Perryville, banyas are made of wood and have two small rooms; a dressing room and a steam room. Inside the steam room is a stove made from a 55 gallon drum.

Around this wood stove are rocks. These rocks are set in a crate-like bin. When a fire is lit in the stove, the rocks are heated. It takes about two hours for the rocks to get very hot. Then, handfuls of cold water from a nearby tub are thrown onto them. Steam comes off the hot rocks and fills the steam room.

To take a bath in the banya, a person first enters the dressing room and undresses. Next, one goes into the steam room. After getting warm from the steam, cold water is splashed all over the body. Then one dries off and gets dressed.

Old-timers at Perryville say banyas do more than make a person feel clean. They refresh the spirit.


A good title for this article is

(1) Heat From Wood Stoves
(2) The Alaska Peninsula
(3) The Banyas at Perryville

Sod House


Early Aleut homes were built halfway below ground level. The roofs were of driftwood layered with sod and grass.

An oil-filled stone both lit and heated these homes. A piece of grass floated in the oil and burned as a wick.

The largest homes in the early times were about 20 by 50 feet. They housed 30 to 40 people. Each family had its own living space that was separated from the next by partitions. There was an opening in the roof at each end. One opening provided light,and the other served as the entrance.

By 1881, most houses seen on the Aleutian Chain were built completely above the ground. The walls were board and nicely furnished, and the furniture was quite up to date.

Starting in Russian days, the partially underground homes were increasingly replaced by wooden homes. Today, they are nearly gone, with only their ruins remaining.


A good title for this article would be

(1) Original Oil Heating
(2) Early Wooden Structures
(3) Early Aleut Homes




Food was easy to get on the Aleutian Islands. Even today, the Aleuts can live off the land and the sea.

People who live near ocean reefs can get food easily. Both the young and old people can gather sea urchins, muscles and little snails from the reefs. Many species of birds and ducks live on the "Chain." Their eggs are good food as is their flesh.

Fish is an important food for the Aleuts. Cod and halibut can be caught all year. There are salmon runs in the fall, and Dolly Varden is caught for variety.

Sea otters and seals are hunted for their meat, as well as their skins. Some islands near the peninsula have caribou and moose and bear which may be hunted.

In the summer people can gather sea urchins, muscles and little snails from the reefs. Many species of birds and ducks live on the "Chain." Their eggs are good food as is their flesh.

Fish is an important food for the Aleuts. Cod an dhalibut can be caught all year. There are slamon runs in the fall, and Dolly Varden is caught for variety.

Sea otters and seals are hunted for their meat, as well as their skins. Some islands near the peninsula have caribou and moose and bear which may be hunted.

In the summer, berries can be gathered in the hills and swamps. Aleuts have developed ways of keeping berries for a long time. At one time, there were more Aleuts than any other Native Alaskan group. The abundant food supply on the Aleutian Islands is one reason for this.


The main idea of this passage is that early Aleuts ate

(1) many kinds of food
(2) sea urchins
(3) bird and duck flesh

Attu Battle



In World War II, Japan sent its armies to the Aleutian Chain. They captured some Aleuts and set up big camps on Kiska and Attu. They thought they wee stopping the United States from attacking them, because the Aleutian Islands are not that far from the Japanese Islands.

The United States had no use the Aleutians. But, it was the first time enemies had been on United States’ land. The United States’ leaders had 11,000 men attack Attu before they went to Kiska. There were fewer Japanese on Attu than on Kiska. But the American boys were too young. They had not fought before. They didn’t know the land, and they wore no warm clothes.

It took three weeks to win back Attu. Most of the Japanese soldiers were killed by the United States’ troops, or they killed themselves. Only 28 were taken prisoner.

There were 600 men from the United States killed and 1200 wounded on Attu. Fifteen hundred more men were ill from the cold and wind. It was an expensive victory.


This article is about

(1) people with colds
(2) a battle
(3) the weather



When the Russians came to Alaska in 1741, there were more Aleuts then all other Alaska Native groups added together. But this population changed dramatically.

The Russians wanted to hunt the sea otters on the Aleutian Islands. Sea otters live near shore and shallow water. The Russian boats were too big and heavy to use, so they needed the Aleuts to help them.

But the Aleuts did not want to help the Russians kill the sea otters. The Russians used threats, bribery, torture and mass murder to make the Aleuts help them. The Aleuts often fought back. Many were killed. The Russians moved whole Aleut towns to different places. Many Aleuts starved in new places. Sickness killed many more. Fifty years after the Russians came there were only 2,000 Aleuts left. And one hundred years after the Russian’s arrival, the Aleut population was 900.

In 1741, the Aleut population lived on half of the 150 island chain. Today only six islands have Aleuts living on them.


The best title for this passage is

(1) Torture and Mass Murder
(2) A changing Population
(3) Hunting Sea Otters





When Aleuts killed a whale, nothing was wasted.

Whale meat and blubber were food for the Aleuts. Rib and jaw bones were used to build dwellings. Smaller bones were made into tables and plates, and vertebrae made good seats. Other bones were used for harpoon heads and knives.

Rain parkas and bags were made from the whale’s intestines. These were waterproof. The sinews were used for thread and cord.

Whale fat burned to give light and heat. Bone fibers were used to decorate mats and baskets. Whale teeth and some bones were carved into ornaments, needles, and arrowheads.


This article is about

(1) eating whales
(2) uses of the whale
(3) hunting whales




Many plants were used by Aleuts as medicine.

Aleuts heated large cow parsnip leaves over water. When the leaves were put on sore muscles, they took the pain away.

A special plant was used for sores that wouldn’t heal. The leaves of this plant were wetted, placed on the wound, and bound. The sore then dried and formed a scab.

Yarrow leaves were crushed and placed on cuts. The Yarrow juice stopped the bleeding fast. When someone had a nosebleed, Yarrow leaves were packed into the nose to stop it.

The Aleuts had another method of stopping bleeding. The plant used was the anemone. The anemone root was crushed and the juice was kept. When the juice was put on a cut, the bleeding stopped.

Wild iris was also used by the Aleuts for medicine. They took the root of this plant and boiled it to make a strong tea. When the tea was drunk, it provided a strong laxative.


The article is about

(1) how to stop bleeding
(2) using plants for medicine
(3) crushing plant leaves




Aleuts have an oral history. Storytellers tell the things of the past to the children and to each other. Aleuts call this REMEMBERING. They tell again legends that they heard in childhood. They recall the clothing, toys, tools and boats seen or used while growing up. They remember the old ways on special days. The REMEMBERING by each person is important. It is key to the whole picture—the Aleut history.



A storyteller named Will Durant put it this way:

Grow strong, my comrade . . .
That you may stand
Unshaken when I fall;
That I may know
The shattered fragments
Of my song will come
At last to finer melody in you;
That I may tell my heart
That you begin
Where passing I leave off,
And. . . you know more.


This passage suggests that history is

(1) not always written
(2) dull and dry
(3) a story

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