History of the Athabascan
About 35,000 years ago people came over to Alaska across the Bering Land Bridge. Those people make up the Alaska Natives today. Which are Athabascan, Tlingit, Haidi, Tsimshian, Aleut, and Eskimo. From the Interior to the western side of Canada (see map) are the Athabascan people. Parts of the lower 48 have Athabascan Natives or relatives of the Athabascan. The Navajo and Apache Indians are related to the Athabascan.
Russians came to Alaska in the late 1800 's but they never really effected the Interior because it was to isolated for them and because they traveled so slow that they couldn't get to the Interior between the time the river broke up and froze again. They mostly settled around the coast of Alaska.
The early 1900's changed Alaska because of the gold rush era. People from all over the world came to Alaska to mine gold. Many white people settled here. Many of our elders had never seen a white person up until about that time.
In 1959 Alaska became a state. By becoming a state, the government had more control over things like fish and game and they also made the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which was established in 1972. That said that Indians in Alaska cannot have their own land that they can govern over. By taking over the fish and game, we couldn't hunt as much as we used to. Plus the government gave us money for education and and that made us more dependent on the state. The other thing that really changed our way of living was technology. In the 1970's, the Alyeska Pipe Line was built. That brought in a lot more money from outside and a lot more cash to rural villages that have not yet developed. With that money we purchased more technology for our villages, like computers for the schools, building material for houses and buildings. With the computers, we got on the internet.
Once we lived the way that the white people lived we couldn't let go. In the village of Minto just about everyone has electricity, running water, a television set, and an oil burning furnace. no more burning candles for light, building a fire for heat, hauling water, one room cabins, or canvas wall tents. We still carry on a part of our traditions like Indian singing and dancing, potlatches and our beliefs. But we are losing our language. We do know little word. If we were to listen to our elders talk in the native tongue, we would have no idea what they are talking about.
I think that we are spoiled and will never go back to the old Indian way that our ancestors have lived. We will never go back to the way we lived; we are spoiled now because of the white man ways.
Learn More About How Our People Lived:
Portage from Cache to Four Cabins
Portage from Old Minto to Graveyard
Our People | Our Culture | Our History | Four Cabins | Cache | Graveyard