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JAN 18 13 ?3 



iM 2 1979 

APR 3 i> ;030 
OCT 3 '•»• 

JUL 1 


L161 — O-1096 



By George I. Quimby 


U. C. ILL I ia 

Aleutian Islanders 

Eskimos of the North Pacific 

By George I. Quimby 


Drawings by Helen Z. Quimby 




DEC 9 1944 


Copyright 194-J by Chicago Natural History Museum 

7u). 35 

The Aleut 

Primitive Hunters of the Northern Sea - - - 

The Aleutian Islands were discovered for Russia by 
the explorers Chirikov and Bering in 1741. In the years 
following, there were many expeditions to these islands 
by Russian hunters and traders, most of whom left 
written descriptions of the geography and people. From 
their written accounts, as well as those of later missionaries 
and scientists, I have reconstructed the Aleut mode of 
life before it was modified by the impact of foreign 

When the Russians first discovered the Eskimos of 
the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands, they called 
them "Aleut." From early census reports of the ex- 
plorers, it is estimated that at the time of their discovery 
the population numbered about 16,000. The Aleutians, 
therefore, were one of the most densely populated areas 
of aboriginal North America. 

These bleak and foggy islands lie between Alaska and 
Siberia. They are rocky, mountainous, and barren. Con- 
stant fog, rain, or snow obscures the sun and prevents the 
growth of trees, yet the abundant moisture encourages 
the growth of arctic berries, grasses, and creeping willows. 
Highland areas are typically alpine; the lowlands are wet 
tundra. But the climate is not truly arctic, for the ice, 
snow, and long winter of the far north are lacking. The 
winters are short and mild, but the rest of the year is 
cold and wet; sunshine is rare and storms are frequent. 
Yet, in spite of their environment the Aleut had thrived 
and were prosperous when they were first discovered by 
the white man. 

Food was abundant. There were many kinds of 
marine mammals: whales, seals, sea lions, walruses, sea 
otters, and sea cows; there were also many fish, birds, and 
shellfish; and there was abundant vegetable food, such as 
roots and berries. 

From the raw materials to be found around them the 
Aleut made their houses, furniture, clothing, ornaments, 
weapons, tools, utensils, and boats. In fabricating these 
articles they used various parts of the sea mammals; 
diverse types of stone; driftwood, which was plentiful; 
grasses; seaweed; bones, skin, and feathers of birds; clay; 
and mineral pigments. Thus, all the necessities used in 
their daily lives were products of their environment, to 
which they were remarkably well adjusted. They utilized 
to the utmost the resources of both land and sea. 

People - - - 

Like other Indians and Eskimos, the Aleut belong to 
the Mongoloid class of people. One of the earliest descrip- 
tions of their appearance comes from the journal of 
Georg Wilhelm Steller, a German naturalist who accom- 
panied Bering in 1741. He says (Golder, 1925, p. 96): 

"As far as the personal appearance of the islanders is 
concerned, of whom I counted on the beach nine, mostly 
young or middle-aged people, they are of medium stature, 



Fig. 1. a, Underground house (after Webber with modifications), b-d. Oil-burning 
lamps of stone, e, Bow-drill for making fire. 

strong and stocky, yet fairly well proportioned, and with 
very fleshy arms and legs. The hair of the head is glossy 
black and hangs straight down all around the head. The 
face is brownish, a little flat and concave. The nose is 
also flattened, though not particularly broad or large. 
The eyes are as black as coals, the lips prominent and 
turned up. In addition they have short necks, broad 
shoulders, and their body is plump though not big- 

Language - - - 

The Aleut spoke a dialect of the Eskimo language — 
one of its most divergent forms. The Eskimo dialects of 
western Alaska, for example, are more closely related to 
those of distant Hudson's Bay and Greenland than they 
are to the near-by Aleut dialect. 




The Aleut usually situated their villages in exposed 
places near the ocean, preferably on an isthmus or a low 
promontory or the shore of a bay. Although such vil- 
lage sites were exposed to the wind and cold, they were 
advantageous in that the villagers were able to see both 
game and enemies at a distance. For this purpose, 
watchers were stationed at high points near the village. 

Houses - - - 

The houses were built underground and were rectangu- 
lar in shape, with earth-covered, dome-shaped roofs made 
of driftwood timbers or whalebone. Some houses had 
entrance passages at the side, but more often entry was 
gained through a hole in the roof by means of a notched 
log used like a ladder. A large underground house (Fig. 
1, a) described by Captain Cook had two openings in the 
roof, one an entrance and the other a window or skylight. 
The floors were covered with matted grass, and each 
house was provided with a urine trough which was equally 

important as a place in which to soak animal skins for 
tanning. Oil-burning lamps, made of stone, furnished 
light and heat. 

Some of these houses were communal dwellings in 
which lived a large family group or a number of families. 
In the big houses there were separate compartments for 
each family. In addition to the family dwellings, each 
village had a large community house or meeting place, 
generally referred to by the Russians as a kashim. 

Hunters or travelers away from their villages on long 
trips built a tentlike temporary shelter. One side of the 
structure was formed by turning a skin-covered canoe on 
its side; then poles were laid from the top side of the boat 
to upright posts, which formed the opposing wall ; finally, 
the framework was covered with skins or mats. 

Livelihood - - - 

Hunting at sea was the primary means of livelihood 
for the insular Aleut, but fishing and the gathering of 
edible plants, birds' eggs, and shellfish were important 
supplements. The mainland Aleut, with a greater abun- 
dance of land animals, laid more emphasis upon hunting 
on land, but in other respects their means of livelihood 
were similar to those of the island dwellers. Because of 
the relatively mild climate, the Aleut had no opportunity 
to use the ice-hunting techniques of the northern Eskimos. 

Kayaks - - - 

Had it not been for the light, skin-covered boat 
used by the Aleut, hunting at sea would have been im- 
possible. Steller describes Aleut kayaks as follows (Golder, 
1925, p. 95): 

"The American boats are about two fathoms' long, 
two feet high, and two feet wide on the deck, pointed 
towards the nose but truncate and smooth in the rear. 
To judge by appearances, the frame is of sticks fastened 
together at both ends and spread apart by crosspieces 

1 Twelve feet. 

inside. On the outside this frame is covered with skins, 
perhaps of seals, and colored a dark brown. With these 
skins the boat is [covered] fiat above but sloping towards 
the keel on the sides; underneath there seems to be 
affixed a shoe or keel which at the bow is connected with 
the bow by a vertical piece of wood or bone representing 
a stem piece, so that the upper surface rests on it. About 
two arshins' from the rear on top is a circular hole, around 
the whole of which is sewn [a strip made of] whale guts 
having a hollow hem with a leather string running through 
it, by means of which it may be tightened or loosened like 
a purse. When the American has sat down in his boat 
and stretched out his legs under the deck, he draws this 
hem together around his body and fastens it with a bow- 
knot in order to prevent any water from getting in. 
Behind the paddler on the boat there lie ten or more red- 
painted sticks, pointed at one end, all made in the same 
way as the one we secured but for what purpose I cannot 
imagine, unless perhaps they serve to repair the boat in 
case the frame should break. The American puts his 
right hand into the hole of the boat and, holding the 
paddle in the other hand, carries it thus because of its 
lightness on to the land anywhere he wants to and back 
from the land into the water. The paddle consists of a 
stick a fathom long, at each end provided with a shovel, 
a hand wide. With this he beats alternately to the right 
and to the left into the water and thereby propels his 
boat with great adroitness even among large waves. 
On the whole, this kind of boat is very little different, if 
at all, from those used by the Samoyeds and by the 
Americans in New Denmark." 

Some models of kayaks, made by Aleut, are illustrated 
in Plate 7. These kayaks have been modified by contact 
with white men, but except for the increased carrying 
capacity they resemble the earlier forms seen by Steller. 

It was sometimes necessary for an Aleut to undertake 
repairs of his kayak while at sea. Of such repairs, one 

' Four feet, eight inches. 


Russian observer says: "An indispensable object to the 
bidarka [kayak] is the bladder, i.e., a cleaned sea-lion's 
or seal's stomach, which is needed in case of capsizing. 
With the help of the bladder one may put aright the boat, 
bale out the water, and even repair the cover; in stormy 
weather the distended bladder keeps the boat afloat, 
even when it is full of water." 

Another method of repairing kayaks at sea entailed 
the co-operation of two other hunters in kayaks. The 
injured boat was lifted from the water and placed across 
the decks of two kayaks which functioned as a kind of 
floating dry dock. With the injured boat thus out of the 
water, repairs could be undertaken. 

The Aleut hunter took along animal fat to smear over 
any leaks in the seams of his skin boat. He used hollow 
bone tubes for sucking water from the kayak bilge. The 
"red-painted sticks" which Steller observed lying on the 
kayak deck behind the paddler were not used "to repair 
the boat" but probably were spears, because Aleut 
hunters carried many red-painted spears with them in 
their kayaks. 

Weapons - ' - 

Hunting weapons of the Aleut were the bow and 
arrow, spear-thrower, spear, bladder dart, harpoon, lance, 
and bird spear. Aleut wooden bows were rather short, 
double-curved, and backed with a twisted sinew spring 
(Plate 1). Arrows, sometimes feathered, were made of 
wood, with or without bone foreshafts, and had simple 
barbed points made of bone, or composite points made of 
bone to which was fastened a chipped stone blade. 

Spear-throwers (Fig. 2, c) were made of wood and 
usually were painted red. They were about sixteen inches 
long and three inches wide, with a hand grip and a hole 
for the forefinger at the near end, a short groove on the 
upper surface toward the far end, and, at the termination 
of the groove, an ivory or bone spur for engaging the 
butt of the spear. 

The spear-thrower is something hke a rigid shng, if 
such can be imagined. It acts as an extension of the arm 
and therefore enables the hunter to throw the spear with 
greater momentum and force (Figs. 3, 5). Modern experi- 
ments have shown that the spear and spear-thrower lacked 
the accuracy of the bow and arrow, but possessed greater 
penetrating power, a characteristic of considerable advan- 
tage in the hunting of tough-hided sea mammals. Other 
advantages of the spear-thrower for use in hunting at sea 
are its lack of recoil and the fact that it does not require 
the use of both hands. The Aleut hunter could steady 
his kayak with the paddle, held in his left hand, while he 
hurled the spear from the spear-thrower in his right hand. 

Different kinds of harpoon darts were thrown with 
the aid of the spear-thrower. For hunting at sea there 
were darts with wooden shafts, bone foreshafts, and 
barbed points of bone or of bone and chipped stone 
(Fig. 2, a, b, e; Plate 5, Figs. 1, 4, 9-13). Similar but larger 
darts were used in hunting marine mammals on land 
(Fig. 3). To some of the darts were attached inflated 
bladders made of the stomachs of sea lions (Fig. 2, a). 
Such bladders hindered the wounded animal in diving 
and also acted as a drag. A bone mouthpiece for such a 
bladder is shown in Figure 8, i. The dart used for hunting 
birds consisted of a wooden shaft with a long barbed 
point made of bone. A short distance beneath the point 
were three barbed prongs of bone (Fig. 5). 

Aleut hunters had two types of harpoons with toggle 
heads. Each consisted of a wooden shaft with a bone 
collar and foreshaft of bone and a toggle-type harpoon 
head made of bone with a blade of ground or chipped 
stone (Plate 5, Figs. 5-7; Plate 6, Figs. 7-9, 12-17). The 
harpoon head was held in place by pressure from a line 
through a hole in the harpoon head. 

In one type of harpoon iVig. 2, /), the line from the 
toggle head was fastened loosely to the wooden shaft. 
In the other type — a unique one the line from the har- 
poon head was fastened through a hole in the foreshaft 


mmnmii l. -s^g5> 

<M<: ^=^m 

Fig. 2. Aleut hunting weapons: a. Harpoon dart with bladder float, b. Harpoon 
dart and spear-throwcr. c. Spear-thrower, d. Club, e. Harpooned seal, f-h, Har- 

poons with toggle heads, i. Lance or spear. 


(Fig. 2, g, h). In either instance the harpoon line was 
elastic enough or loose enough to allow the toggle head to 
turn at right angles like a hinge after it had penetrated 
the animal, thus performing the same function as a barb. 
Sometimes inflated bladders were tied to the harpoons. 
Lances (Fig. 2, i) were similar to harpoons and darts, 
but the heads or points were fixed to the foreshaft and did 

Fig. 3. Aleut liunti-r with l.irgc harpoon-dart and spear-thrower. 

not become detached upon striking an animal. The 
animals, wounded and hampered in their movements by 
darts or harpoons (Fig. 2, e), were killed with a lance or 
perhaps with a bone club (Fig. 2, d). 

Whaling - - - 

The whaling techniques of the Aleut were radically 
different from of the northern Eskimos. Instead 
of a whaling harpoon, long lines, and floats, the Aleut 


used a lance and aconite poison (Heizer, 1943). The lance 
consisted of a wooden shaft with a bone collar and a barbed 
bone point. To this point was fastened a blade of chipped 
stone or obsidian (Fig. 2, i), and the aconite poison was 
smeared on the blade. The poison was made by pounding 
and grating dried aconite root, which was then steeped in 
water and kept in a warm place until it fermented. 

The Aleut hunter in his kayak approached within 
striking distance of the whale and threw his poisoned 
lance. A lance wound was relatively insignificant, but 
the poison killed the whale, which at some later time was 
cast up on the shore by the winds and currents. The lance, 
still sticking in the whale, identified the killer by means of 
a symbol or ownership-mark engraved on its shaft. 

The poisoned flesh and blubber around the wound were 
removed and discarded, and then the whale was divided 
among the inhabitants of the village, although certain 
choice parts went to the owner of the whale, the hunter 
who had killed it. It seems probable that some of the 
aconite poison was present in the parts eaten by the 
Aleut, but probably the amount was not great enough to 
be dangerous. Also it is possible that the Aleut had indi- 
vidual tolerances obtained by the frequent eating of 
poisoned whales. 

Whale-hunting was the duty and privilege of a guild 
or cult of whale hunters. Considerable prestige was 
attached to the cult as well as to the killer of a given whale, 
for the manufacture and use of aconite poison were the 
secret property of guild members and were unknown to 
other Aleut. Many rituals and customs, most of them 
lost to history, were associated with the whaling cult. 

The Aleut method of hunting whales probably was 
borrowed from Asia. The same techniques were used by 
natives of Kamchatka and the Kurile Islands. 

Hunting on Land - - - 

Under certain conditions weapons usually associated 
with hunting at sea were used on land; for instance, 


marine mammals con.orrepating on the shores or in their 
islet rookeries were killed by Aleut land hunters who 
used lances. han)oons, or spear-throwers with darts. 

Hunting Birds- -- 

Many kinds of birds were hunted by the Aleut, who, 
for this purpose, employed the spear-thrower and a 
special kind of dart. The dart (Fig. 5) was about five or 
six feet long and tipped with a long bone point with many 
barbs. A short distance beneath this point were three 
similar barbed prongs set radially in such a way that they 
projected from the shaft at an acute angle. When cast 
at a bird or a flock of birds, this spear was particularly 
effective, for with its total of four barbed points it became, 
in a sense, the equivalent of four closely spaced darts 
flying through the air. 

In addition to the special dart, nets on long poles and 
snares were used for catching birds. It is probable that 
the bow and arrow was also used for hunting birds on land. 

Fishing - - ' 

Fish were caught in nets, by hook and line, or with 
spears. There were two styles of long wooden fish- 
spears. One type had a single barbed point made of bone 
(Fig. 4, (/); the other, a trident form, had a central barbed 
point of bone and two bone side-prongs, also barbed 
(Fig. 4, c). The Aleut composite fishhook was made of 
bone and consisted of a barbed hook lashed with sinew 
to a curved shank (Fig. 4, a, h, e, g, i). Lines were made 
of twisted or braided sinew or twisted fiber. Notched or 
grooved stones were used as sinkers for nets and fish 
lines (Fig. 4, /, h). 

A shellfish rake of wood with a cluster of four bone 
prongs at one end was used for catching sea urchins in 
deep water. The prongs were blunt and did not have 
barbs. Octopuses were caught in shallow waters from 
skin boats by means of hooks tied to long wooden shafts. 
The hooks were probably made of bone. 


Fig. 4. Aleut fishing equipment: a-b, e, i. Composite fishhooks of bone, c-d. 
Fish spears, i. Grooved fish-Hne sinker of stone, g. Hook, line, and sinker, h. Notched 
fish-line sinker of stone. 


Food-gathering - - - 

No less important tlian hunting and fishing were the 
food-gathering activities of the Aleut. Edible roots were 
obtained with the aid of a root digger, a pointed bone 
instrument one or two feet long. All edible grasses, roots, 
and berries were utilized. When available, birds' eggs 
were gathered in considerable quantities. But of all 
gathered foods, shellfish seem to have been most abun- 
dant. The important shellfish were sea urchins, snails, 
and clams. 

The Aleut ate most of their food raw. Some meat was 
roasted and doubtless some was cooked in wooden vessels 
by means of "stone boiling;" that is, by dropping heated 
stones into the water until the boiling point was reached. 
Fish were frequently eaten raw; for future use they were 
dried. Sometimes fish and meat were cooked in a fry- 
ing or baking pan made of a flat stone. 

At times hot springs of volcanic origin were used for 
cooking food. In 1760-64, a Russian trader noted in his 
diary: "Large springs of boiling water are found on many 
islands. In these springs the people bathe and also cook 
in plaited grass bags the meat of sea-animals, fish, and 
edible roots, though generally they eat their food raw." 

Weapons and Defense for War - - - 

Aleut weapons used in war were the bow and arrow, 
the spear and spear-thrower, the lance, and bone or 
wooden clubs (Plate 2). Defense against such weapons 
was achieved by means of slat, rod, or plate armor made 
of wood (Plate 8). Pincers made of albatross beaks were 
used to remove spears and arrows from wounds. 

Travel and Transportation - - - 

Because of the relatively mild climate, the Aleut could 
not use the Eskimo dog sled or the Indian toboggan and 
snowshoes. His only means of travel was by skin boats. 
Of these there were two kinds, the kayak and the umiak, 


Fig. 5. Aleut bird-hunter throwing bird spear by means of a spear-thrower. Above 
him is a bird spear in flight. 


both well-known Eskimo types. The kayak (p. 7) was 
used mostly for hunting at sea. 

The umiak consisted of a large wooden frame about 
thirty feet long and nine feet wide, covered with skins. 
Twenty people or an equivalent amount of freight could 
be carried in the Aleut umiak. These large open boats 
would have been ideal transports for war parties, and it 
is not hard to imagine a body of attacking Aleut in an 
umiak being convoyed by lone warriors in their swift 

Tools and Utensils- -- 

Aleut houses were heated with stone lamps (Fig. 1, 6- 
d) that burned sea-mammal oil by means of a grass or 
moss wick. The Aleut also warmed themselves by sitting 
over small stone lamps with their outer garment spread 
funnel-wise to receive the heat. Fuel oil was stored or 
carried in skin or gut bladders equipped with bone 
spigots and stoppers. 

Fire was made by means of a bow-drill (Fig. 1, e), or 
by striking together two pieces of quartz rock that had 
been rubbed with sulphur. The rubbing produced sparks 
that ignited the sulphur, which in turn kindled the tinder 
made of dry grass and feathers. Grass and driftwood 
were generally used as fuel, but some of the Aleut on the 
mainland burned coal (lignite). 

Household utensils were bone or wooden bowls, spoons, 
and boxes made of thin wood, bent into shape and sewed 
at the seams. Drinking water was carried or stored in 
bladders made of seal skin or the stomachs of sea mam- 
mals. These water bags had a bone or ivory spigot and 
a stopper. 

Like the northern Eskimo, Aleut women used a semi- 
lunar knife of rubbed stone (Plate 6, Fig. 1). A some- 
what similar, but rectanguloid, knife was used by men. 
Another style of knife, also used by men, was made of 
chipped stone, pointed and double-edged (Plate 6, Fig. 6). 
Projectile points or blades for lances, harpoons, and darts 


Fig. 6. Bone tools: a-b. Wedges for splitting logs, c, d, h-1. Various styles of 
awls. e. f, m. Chisels, g. Net-spacer, n. Needles, o, Needle case made of hollow 
section of bone. 


were made of chipped stone (Plate 6, Figs. 7 9, 12 17). 
Generally these })oints were hafted to different styles of 
bone heads for harpoons, lances, and darts. In Plate 5 
are illustrated some bone heads for projectiles: large and 
small harpoon heads (Plate 5, Figs. 1, 4, 9-13) ; toggle heads 
for harpoons (Plate 5, Figs. 5-7); a center prong for a 
fish or bird spear (Plate 5, Fig. 3); a side prong for a fish 
or bird spear (Plate 5, Fig. 8); a lance head (Plate 5, 
Fig. 2); and a point for a fish spear (Plate 5, Fig. 14). 

The women prepared skins with knives and scrapers 
made of chipped stone (Plate 6, Figs. 10, 11) and sewed 
skin clothing, bags, boat coverings, and the like with 
bone awls and needles (Fig. 6, c, d, h I) and sinew thread. 
Aleut needles (Fig. 6, n) did not have eyes. Instead, 
there was a tiny groove in the head of the needle to which 
the thread was tied. When not in use, needles were kept 
in cases, usually made of hollow bone (Fig. 6, o). 

For wood-working there were several styles of chipped 
stone scrapers, some of which had stems that could be 
hafted to a bone or wooden handle (Plate 6, Figs. 3, 4). 
Wood was chopped with bone or stone adzes (Plate 6, 
Figs. 2, 18). The latter, however, were extremely rare. 
Logs of driftwood were split by means of bone wedges 
(Fig. 6, a, b) and wooden mauls or hammerstones. Wood 
was also shaped with stone knives and bone chisels (Fig. 
6, e, f, m). Drill points of chipped or rubbed stone were 
probably used in bow-drills. 

Stone-graving tools (Plate 6, Fig. 5) were sometimes 
fastened to small handles of bone (Fig. 8, m). Various 
tools of bone were used for flaking and chipping stone 
implements. Hard rocks were used for grinding and 
pecking stone lamps into their finished form. Bone or 
wooden shovels were used for excavating the pits that 
formed the underground part of Aleut houses. Short 
digging-sticks of bone or wood were used by Aleut women 
in securing edible roots. 

Cradles or carriers for babies were made of a wooden 
frame to which was lashed animal hide or woven matting. 

For carrying boxes, bags, and some kinds of baskets, 
there were bone handles somewhat suggestive of the type 
used on our modern travehng bags. 

The Aleut solved the problem of itching backs with 
their back scratcher, a wooden or bone handle to which 
was fastened a roughened bone head or a bone tip with 
short teeth something like a comb. It was shoved along 
the back under the clothing. Combs were made of bone 
or wood. Some of these were decorated with characteristic 
Aleut ornamentation (p. 26). 

Bone sucking-tubes were sometimes used for pumping 
water from the kayaks, but there were probably other 
uses for such objects. A bone implement, probably used 
in making nets, is shown in Figure 6, g. Mortars and 
grinding stones were used for powdering the minerals 
used in the manufacture of paint. 

Pottery - - - 

The Aleut used little pottery, despite the presence of 
suitable clays. They occasionally made pottery lamps 
and vessels, very thick and crude pieces heavily tempered 
with gravel and particles of rock. Sometimes they added 
clay sides to the flat stones used for frying fish and meat. 

Basketry ' ' ' 

Basket- and mat-weaving were important occupations 
of Aleut women, who utilized for this purpose the abun- 
dant wild grasses. The weaving, done entirely by hand 
(Plate 3), consisted of variations of the twining technique: 
two weft elements, one under and one over each warp 
element, twisted together between the warp elements. 
The baskets were decorated with grasses dried to vary in 
color from green to light yellow or dyed other colors, 
such as red. 

Baskets were used for storage, for carrying, and for 
cooking. Grass mats were used for a variety of purposes — 
to sleep on, to sit on, and as screens to partition the interior 
of the house. 


Dress and Adornment-'' 

Both men and women wore long parkas, shirtlike 
garments made of sea-mammal skins or of bird skins 
sewed together so that the feathers were inside (Plates 2, 
4). As an outer garment, the men wore a similar but 
longer parka made of sea-mammal intestines sewed 
together in horizontal strips (Figs. 3, 5). These water- 
proof garments usually were ornamented along the seams 
with painted seal-hair or red feathers from the rosy finch. 
A hood was attached to the parka. 

Seal-skin boots were worn by both men and women 
(Plates 2, 4), but sometimes the Aleut went barefoot. 
Sketches by Levashev (1768), Webber (1778), and Choris 
(1820) all show barefooted men or women. 

One of the first descriptions of Aleut clothing is in 
Steller's journal. He says (Colder, 1925, p. 96): "All had 
on whale-gut shirts with sleeves, very neatly sewed 
together, which reach to the calf of the leg. Some had 
the shirts tied below the navel with a string, but others 
wore them loose. Two of them had on boots and trousers 
which seemed to be made after the fashion of the Kam- 
chadals out of seal leather and dyed brownish-red with 
alder bark." 

The boots may have been dyed, although some tanned 
boots with the seal hair removed are brownish-red in 

The Aleut had three styles of wooden hats. Describing 
one style, seen in 1741, Steller says (Colder, 1925, p. 102): 
"On their heads they had hats made of the bark of trees, 
colored green and red, that resembled in shape the eye 
shades that are usually worn around the head; the crown 
was uncovered, and these hats appeared to have been 
invented only for the purpose of shading the eyes from 
the sun." 

These visor-like hats were worn by male commoners. 
Another style of hat, one of which was illustrated by 
Levashev, belongs to a type intermediate between the 

Aleut visor and the conical hat. It is like a conical hat 
with the top cut off (Plate 8). 

Of all Aleut headgear, the conical hats were the finest 
(Fig. 7). Such hats were made from a thin board, bent 
into shape and sewed with a sinew at the single seam in 
back. This seam was covered with a bone plate. The 

Fig. 7. Wooden hats showing various styles of painted decoration (after Ivanov 
with modifications). 

hats were richly ornamented with ivory or bone carvings, 
sea-lion whiskers, feathers, and painted designs. Mineral 
colors used in painting were white, green, red, yellow, 
black, and blue. The carvings were realistic representa- 
tions usually of animals or purely geometric designs 
engraved on bone or ivory plates. Such headgear was 
very costly and was worn primarily by chiefs or "nobles." 
These hats were worth from one to three slaves, a high 
price when one considers that a skin boat cost only one 


Wooden hats and visors were worn by hunters. In 
addition to their aesthetic and prestige value, these hats 
and visors were beheved to have supernatural power 
that aided the hunter. 

Another style of hat was made of bird skins with the 
feathers attached. Naturally bright and colorful, bird- 
skin hats were worn by both men and women (Plates 
2, 4). They also wore fur hats made of sea-lion skins. 

In common with the ancient Mexicans and most 
Pacific coast Indians and Eskimos, the Aleut wore stone, 
ivory, or bone labrets (Fig. 8, g, ;, k). Steller observed 
some of these and remarked as follows (Golder, 1925, 
p. 103): 

"I noticed on this occasion once more that these 
people regard it as a special ornament to pierce holes 
anywhere in their faces, as we do in the lobes of the ear, 
and to insert in them various stones and bones. One of 
these fellows had stuck a slate pencil, about 23/^ inches 
long and exactly like those with which we write on ciph- 
ering slates, through the nasal septum. Another had a 
piece of bone three inches long stuck through crosswise 
above the chin just under the lower lip. Still another 
had a bone like it fastened in the forehead, and another, 
finally, had a similar one in each of the wings of the nose." 

In some instances, bunches of grass were inserted in 
the pierced openings instead of labrets. Frequently grass 
was stuffed into the nostrils, perhaps for decorative 
purposes. Bone pins (Fig. 8, c) were inserted through a 
hole in the nasal septum. 

Aleut men decorated their faces with blue, red, or 
white paint. Women were tattooed on their faces, backs, 
breasts, arms, and sides, in blue or black. The tattooing 
designs were simple and linear; usually there were 
closely spaced vertical or radiating lines on the chin and 
horizontal lines on the face. The lines were usually 
pricked into the skin with a bone needle. There was 
another technique also in use in which pigmented thread 
was sewed into the skin. Both men and women wore 


t f 



Fig. 8. Aleut art: a, b, d-f, Engraved designs, c. Decorated nose pin. g, j, k, 
Labrets. b, I, Amulets or ornaments, i. Mouthpiece for harpoon bladder, in. Bone 
handle for graver. 


seal-skin bracelets around their wrists and ankles, and 
ornamental fringes were attached to their garments. 

Art - - - 

There were three types of Aleut art: graphic arts, 
painting, and sculpture. The graphic arts were repre- 
sented by engraving and tattooing. Engraving was done 
on bone or ivory with a sharp-pointed stone graver; 
tattooing was done with a bone needle and mineral pig- 
ments such as red ocher or lamp soot. 

The patterns used in tattooing were very simple, 
usually composed of straight lines. Engraved designs 
(Fig. 8, a, h, d J) were simple geometric patterns usually 
made of straight lines, although the circle and the circle 
and dot were common enough motifs (Fig. 8, a). These 
designs were generally placed on weapons and ornaments. 
Related to engraving was the technique of making designs 
by means of shallow drilled holes (Fig. 8, m). Such work 
was usually confined to the decoration of bone ornaments, 
but was used occasionally on bone tools. 

The Aleut were very fond of red. Using red mineral 
paint, they covered solidly the shafts of their darts, 
spears, harpoons, and arrows. Polychrome painting was 
commonly used in the decoration of wooden hunting-hats 
and eye shades and ceremonial masks. The motifs were 
both geometric and realistic (Fig. 7). In some of the geo- 
metric motifs on wooden hats there is a use of sweeping 
curvilinear lines. 

Facial painting was probably an elaborate procedure 
with a variety of motifs, but about the only early record 
is that of Steller, who saw an Aleut paint pear-shaped 
designs on his cheeks. 

Aleut sculpture was carved in wood, bone, and ivory. 
Such carving was naturalistic in so far as real or imaginary 
creatures were represented. Sculptured objects in this 
category were wooden masks (which were also painted; 
Fig. 9), faces carved on bone lance and dart heads, amu- 
lets, and ornaments (Fig. 8, h, I). A type of sculpture 


Fig. 9. Wooden masks used in Aleut ceremonies (after Dall). 


closely related to engraving was also used in the orna- 
mentation of dart and lance heads. This sculptural 
variant consisted of raised lines with rows of notches cut 
into them, and other similar geometric forms. The 
designs were simple, linear, and rigid (Fig. 8, i). 

Aleut art seems to have been stiff and formal for the 
most part. The graceful curving lines painted on some 
of the hats illustrated by Ivanov may have been the result 
of Russian influence. 

Aleut Society- -- 

The social organization of the Aleut was somewhat 
more complicated than that of the Eskimo. Each island 
or small group of islands had a ruling man referred to by 
the Russians as an "elder." 

There were four social classes: elders, chiefs, com- 
moners, and slaves. We do not know how elders, chiefs, 
and commoners obtained their status; the slaves were 
Aleut who had been captured in wars between islands. 
Possibly the chiefs ruled over villages or perhaps they 
were in charge of honored occupational groups, such as 
whale hunters. Another possibility is that the chiefs 
obtained their rank in society by bravery and efficiency 
in warfare. 

The Aleut elders, chiefs, commoners, and slaves — 
lived in villages. Usually each village consisted of a 
group of family houses and a large community center, 
the kashim, which seems to have been primarily a type of 
men's house. This house was the village meeting place, 
workshop, and ceremonial center. Some villages had 
large communal houses in which a number of families 
lived, others had smaller dwellings that housed single 

Marriage - - - 

The Aleut were polygamous. A man had several 
wives, probably as many as he could support by hunting 


and fishing. Conversely, a woman could have as many- 
husbands as she could keep house for. 

One form of marriage was by capture, but there were 
apparently less violent methods of acquiring a wife. 
Bancroft (1886, p. 92) describes what seems to be mar- 
riage by purchase. Presents were made to the relatives 
of the bride. But even under such peaceful conditions of 
marriage there sometimes was a mock abduction in which 
the groom pretended that he was seizing the bride by 

The Aleut allowed a man to take as additional wives 
the younger sisters of his wife. Another old Aleut custom 
permitted the younger unmarried brothers of the husband 
to cohabit with his wives. Apparently this privilege was 
extended to male parallel cousins (children of father's 
brother or mother's sister), who were regarded as brothers 
by the Aleut. 

Household - - - 

With this complexity of marital ties and privileges it 
was possible for Aleut households to become considerably 
enlarged. In such an enlarged household, a man's sons 
did not live with him but with their mother's brother 
(maternal uncle). Thus a woman's sons lived in their 
uncle's household and were educated by him. Such a 
custom is not at all rare among primitive peoples. 

What happened to the daughters of a husband and 
wife is not revealed by the records of the early Russian 
explorers and traders. Perhaps they too were brought 
up in the mother's brother's household. 

Kinship - ' ' 

The complicated nature of Aleut society was reflected 
in its kinship system, which resembled that of some 
Indians more than it did that of the Eskimo to whom 
Aleut were more clearly related in other respects. The 
Aleut placed within the same or nearly similar categories 


certain relatives that we always keep separate. For 
instance, the father and the father's brother were nearly 
equivalent, as were the mother and the mother's sister. 
But the mother's brother and the father's sister were 
each placed in a separate category somewhat similar to 
our "uncle" and "aunt." The Aleut uncle was very 
important, for it was he who brought up his sister's sons. 

Parallel cousins (children of the father's brother or 
the mother's sister) were reckoned as the equivalent of 
brothers and sisters. An Aleut could not, of course, 
marry his female parallel cousin. Cross cousins (children 
of the father's sister or the mother's brother) were con- 
sidered as cousins rather than brothers and sisters. Prob- 
ably he could marry his cross cousin; it is even possible 
that at one time cross-cousin marriage was preferential. 

Property - - ' 

Although the evidence is far from clear, it appears 
that each Aleut village or island owned certain hunting 
and fishing territories; possibly such territories were 
divided among Aleut households. Villages also held 
rights to sources of mineral paints. 

Nothing is known about the inheritance of property, 
but considering the few facts that are known about Aleut 
social organization, there is some probability that nephews 
inherited from their uncles (mother's brothers) rather 
than from their fathers. In view of the uncle-nephew 
relationship, Bancroft's statement (1886, p. 90) that the 
status and role of whale hunters passed from father to 
son is probably not accurate. It is more probable that 
the rights and privileges of the whale-hunting caste passed 
from uncle to nephew. 

Education of Children--- 

Like the children of most primitive peoples, Aleut 
children learned what was expected of them by observing 
their elders and playing games in which they assumed 


the role of adults. Indirectly, children were allowed to 
participate in or observe most activities of adults. Thus, 
children learned morals, ethics, religion, history, how to 
secure food and shelter, and in general how to live as an 
Aleut among other Aleut. 

Punishment was rare. Almost the only type known, 
and one common to all Eskimos, consisted of plunging a 
crying infant into snow or cold water. Bancroft says 
(1886, p. 92) that "this remedy, performed in winter 
amid broken ice, is very effectual." 

Upon reaching a certain age, boys were turned over 
to their uncles, who taught them hunting, warfare, and 
other things expected of an Aleut man. Young girls 
learned to cook, sew, and care for babies, and to partici- 
pate in other social activities expected of women. 

Names ' ' ' 

Aleut names were romantic and colorful. Some of 
those recorded by Jochelson are as follows: The Producer 
of Daylight; The Breaker of Walrus Tusks; My Moon; 
The Fear Inspiring; The Seaweed; The One Who Is 
Always Lying; The Root; The One Who Is Waiting for 
His Dart; The Shark; The Sea Lion's Hair; The Splitter 
(of drift logs) ; and The Quickly Speaking Person. 

Games - - - 

Aleut games were for the amusement of adults as well 
as children. Like the Eskimo, the Aleut had innumerable 
varieties of "cat's cradle," which was primarily a woman's 
game. Among some of the Aleut this game was not played 
in summer, for they believed if they did, that a cold 
autumn would follow. Another game was blanket-tossing. 
This too was a common Eskimo form of amusement. 
Other games were the ring and pin, where a tossed ring 
must be caught on a stick; a variant of the cup and pin 
game, in which a board with holes in it must be caught on 
a stick; and several juggling games. 


Ceremonies - - - 

Aleut ceremonies were primaril.\- a reflection of religious 
beliefs and secondarily a manifestation of ideas of pro- 
priety. Comparatively little is known about them, but 
from Steller's journal (Colder, 1925, p. 92) we have the 
following account of a first meeting between the Russians 
and the Aleut: 

". . . one of them came very near to us, but, before 
approaching quite close, he reached into his bosom, pulled 
out some iron- or lead-colored shiny earth, and with this 
he painted himself from the wings of the nose across the 
cheeks in the form of two pears, stuffed the nostrils full 
of grass (the nose wings on each side, however, were 
pierced with fine pieces of bone), and then took from the 
sticks lying behind him on the skin boat one which was 
like a billiard cue, about three ells |6 ft.| long, of spruce 
wood and painted red, placed two falcon wings on it and 
tied them fast with whalebone, showed it to us, and then 
with a laugh threw it towards our vessel into the water. 
I cannot tell whether it was meant as a sacrifice or a sign 
of good friendship. On our part we tied two Chinese 
tobacco pipes and some glass beads to a piece of board 
and tossed it to him. He picked it up, looked at it a little, 
and then brought it over to his companion, who placed 
it on top of his boat. After this he became somewhat 
more courageous, approached still nearer to us, though 
with the greatest caution, tied an eviscerated entire fal- 
con to another stick and passed it up to our Koryak 
interpreter in order to receive from us a piece of Chinese 
silk and a mirror. It was not at all his intention that we 
should keep the bird but that we should place the piece 
of silk between the claws so that it would not become wet." 

The behavior of the Aleut suggests that they either 
considered the Russians as supernatural beings or else 
had a ceremonious way of greeting strangers. 

Additional information about the ceremonial treat- 
ment of strangers has been gathered by Bancroft, who 
saj's (1886, p. 93): "The stranger guest, as he approaches 


the village, is met by dancing men and dancing women 
who conduct him to the house of the host, where food is 
given him. After supper, the dancing, now performed by 
naked men, continues until all are exhausted . . . and 
all retire." Wives or slaves were lent to the guests as part 
of the hospitality. Wife-lending is a common custom 
among most Eskimos. 

Music for dances was supplied by drums, rattles, and 
vocal chants. The Aleut drum, like that of the Eskimo, 
was single-headed and consisted of a narrow hoop over 
which was stretched a membrane. The drum, held by 
strings, was beaten so that the drumstick struck the rim 
before hitting the membrane. Some of the drums were 
equipped with wooden or bone handles instead of strings. 
Some of the rattles were made of birds' beaks, others 
probably of wood or skin. 

Aleut dances were dramatic presentations for social 
and religious occasions. Bancroft says (1886, p. 93): 
"They are fond of pantomimic performances; of repre- 
senting in dances their myths and legends; of acting out 
a chase, one assuming the part of a hunter, another of a 
bird or beast trying to escape the snare, now succeeding, 
now failing — the piece ending in the transformation of a 
captive bird into a lovely woman who falls exhausted 
into the arms of the hunter." 

The most important Aleut ceremony was the winter 
festival held each year for the purpose of insuring good 
hunting in the spring. The festival lasted an unknown 
number of days and was in part celebrated by dances in 
which the dancers wore carved wooden masks painted in 
many colors. These masks were representations of spirits 
of animals and of supernatural beings who lived in the 
ocean, the earth, or the sky. After the ceremony they 
were destroyed. There were also large painted and carved 
figures, presumably representations of gods, although 
exactly how these were used is not known. 

One feature of the winter festival consisted of a dance, 
in which, according to Bancroft, ". . . the women of the 


village assembled by moonlight, and danced naked with 
masked faces, the men being excluded under penalty of 
death." There were similar dances in which the men 



To quote the somewhat ambiguous statement of 
Bancroft (1886, p. 91): "Notwithstanding their peaceful 
character, the occupants of the several islands were 
almost constantly at war." The Aleut engaged in war 
for a number of reasons. Frequent causes were disputes 
over property, and these were of several kinds. For one 
thing, each village had hunting and fishing rights to certain 
territories and the violation of these rights by Aleut from 
other villages or islands was cause for war. Similarly, 
sources of mineral paint were owned by specific villages. 
If Aleut from another village took mineral paints from 
such sources, war resulted. The capture of brides from 
other islands was also the signal for combat. Another 
cause was the raiding of villages for the purpose of 
obtaining slaves. 

A less tangible reason for war was the necessity for 
Aleut men to obtain honor and power as warriors. Touch- 
ing the internal secretions of a fallen enemy was thought 
to bring an Aleut honor and supernatural power, and so 
possibly when such commodities were running low in a 
village, war was declared. 

Blood feuds and revenge were almost endless sources 
of conflict. If a woman was captured by a wife-hunter 
or a person was injured in some way, all of the relatives 
and friends of the injured person would seek to kill or 
injure the aggressor, who presumably would be from 
another village. Then the friends and relatives of the 
aggressor would have to obtain revenge for his injury, 
and thus would be set in motion an endless chain of wars. 

The head of a slain enemy was secured as a trophy 
and displayed on top of a pole in front of the victor's 


Religion - - - 

The Aleut believed in spirits and supernatural beings 
whose power was ever present in all things, from rocks to 
animals. One class of deities ruled over the sea, another 
the earth, and still another the sky. These deities were 
very important to the Aleut because they could provide 
good hunting, protection from enemies, and the like. In 
short, these supernatural beings could fill all of the needs 
of Aleut society. However, they helped only those Aleut 
who helped themselves. 

Like the northern Eskimo, the Aleut were careful to 
keep separate those things which belonged to the land 
gods and those things which belonged to the sea gods. 
For example, if it became necessary for a hunter to lighten 
the rock-ballast in his kayak, he could not throw the rocks 
into the sea, because such an act would make the sea gods 
angry; he had to return them to the land. Likewise, the 
bones of the first sea-mammal killed by a hunting party 
had to be thrown back into the sea, although the flensing 
of the animal and the removal of the bones could take 
place on shore. 

The ocean gods and other spirits assisted the Aleut 
sea-faring hunter, but the hunter and Aleut society as a 
whole had to undertake certain ceremonies and rituals in 
order to please them and insure their continued support. 

The winter festival, for instance — a ceremony in 
which the whole village participated — was performed, at 
least in part, for the purpose of obtaining a plentiful food 
supply from the gods. Doubtless other rites were per- 
formed by individual hunters. Additional help in hunting 
could be obtained from the spirits of dead relatives, 
from one's animal protector, or from the supernatural 
power lodged in the carvings and painted designs on the 
wooden headgear or in amulets. Some hunting amulets 
listed by Jochelson were as follows: The feathers of the 
rosy finch were an amulet used in whale hunting, and pieces 
of hematite were amulets for hunting sea otters and 
whales. Other amulets were ravens' beaks and carved bone 


figures of different animals. A rather complicated amulet 
used by eastern Aleut fox hunters consisted of a small 
rope made from the long neck hair of a male reindeer, the 
sinew of a fox tail, and stems of a strawberry plant soaked 
in urine. This was wrapped in a piece of skin or gut. 

There were a number of things a hunter could not 
do without inviting disaster. He must not allow anyone 
to see his amulets, and before a hunting trip he had to 
avoid contact with women, especially widows and men- 
struating women. 

Sickness and death were caused by evil spirits. Some- 
times death could be prevented or sickness could be cured 
by shamans, specialists who could use their supernatural 
power against the evil spirits of sickness and death. 
Only shamans could make the sacred masks used in Aleut 

In contrast to the northern Eskimo, Aleut did not 
fear the dead. Spirits of dead relatives were helpful in 
many ways. Also, spirits of dead Aleut could reside in 
animals; for instance, sea otters could have human souls. 

The Aleut religion took care of the needs of the people 
it served and was well integrated with the other aspects of 
Aleut society. 

Mythology - - ' 

The myths and stories of the Aleut were of three kinds. 
The first class dealt with animal protectors, guardians, 
and other supernatural beings. The second kind of myth 
told of the deeds of culture-heroes, warriors, strong men, 
and chiefs. The third style of story was historical, telling 
of the present or past life of the Aleut. 

The narration of myths was an art, and a narrator was 
proud of his skill. His fellow villagers also took pride in 
his skill and expected him to maintain a high standard of 
excellence. As Jochelson stated, the narration of a myth 
was regarded as the "common work of the tribe expressed 
by individuals." Stories were prefaced with the state- 
ment that this is "the work or creation of my country." 


Disposal of the Dead - - - 

The northern Eskimo feared the dead and disposed 
of bodies as quickly as possible. The Aleut, on the other 
hand, had no such fear. In fact, family attachments were 
so great that parting with the dead was delayed as long 
as possible. Undoubtedly there were various ritualistic 
observances in the period between death and disposal of 
the body. We know, for instance, that there were pro- 
cessions marked by the beating of drums and the wailing 
of the bereaved and that labrets were removed as a sign 
of mourning. When at length the time arrived for the 
removal of the body, it was disposed of in one of three 
ways: cremation, burial in the ground, or burial in caves. 

Cremation seems to have been the mark of a low status 
in society, for cremated cave burials were mostly of 
women, children, and slaves, probably associates of some 
great personage or chief who was the central theme of 
the particular burial. Interments were made in circular 
pits which were regarded by the living as houses for the 
dead. A number of individuals could be buried in the 
same pit along with grave offerings. Preparation for such 
burials is said to have been the same as for cave burials. 

Still another funeral custom of the Aleut was burial 
in a tomb or sarcophagus made of logs and planks. These 
underground tombs were rectangular, about eight feet 
wide, ten feet long, and three feet high. The sides and 
ends were made of logs, but the top of the crypt was 
covered by planks caulked with pieces of fur and neatly 
tied bundles, also of fur. The bodies inside the crypt 
were in flexed positions and accompanied by their cloth- 
ing, tools, ornaments, and other belongings. 

The most interesting and spectacular burials were the 
mummy packs, deposited in caves. For this interment, 
the viscera sometimes were removed and the space left 
by such removal was filled with grass; in other cases there 
was no such evisceration. The body, dressed in a parka 
of bird skins or sea-otter fur, over which (in the case of 
men) there might be a waterproof parka, was placed in a 


sitting position with arms and legs drawn tightly against 
the torso, and was wrapped in woven mats. Then the 
mummy pack was tied with cords or nets and perhaps 
more matting. Finall>" it was removed to a dry cave 
where it was placed amid a lavish display of burial furni- 
ture. Women, for instance, were surrounded by their 
sewing equipment and cooking utensils. Babies were in 
their cradles. Hunters had all their weapons and kayaks 
with them. Warriors were dressed in armor, with their 
weapons at hand. Thus it can be seen that cave burials 
were communities of the dead completely equipped to 
live in a spirit world in much the same way as they had 
lived before death. Some Aleut believed that at night 
the dead went about their tasks of hunting and house- 
keeping, that they held their festivals and ceremonies, 
but that with the arrival of daylight they returned to their 
cave resting-places and assumed their burial positions. 

There were two types of cave burial. Chiefs with 
their retinue and honored persons such as some warriors 
and whale hunters, were placed in large grotto-like caves, 
where the mummies were suspended from wooden frames 
or laid upon a wooden platform. Smaller caves served as 
village cemeteries where the dead were placed upon the 
bare floor of the cave or upon mats. All of the caves 
were dry and relatively warm, an important factor in 
accounting for the excellent preservation of mummies. 


Decline of the Aleut 

This survey of the Aleut, at about 1740, the time of 
their first contact with the white men, shows them well 
adapted to their environment and possessing a relatively 
advanced culture. In the early period of Russian exploita- 
tion many Aleut were brutally exterminated. Even in the 
years when the white masters of the land offered kinder 
treatment, Aleut culture could not stand up against the 
impact of a foreign civilization. Consequently, they lost 
everything important to them and received little in 
return. Recent efforts of the United States government 
have succeeded in improving the lot of the Aleut, but at 
present, after two hundred years of white contact, Aleut 
culture is completely broken and almost extinct. 


Archaeology of the Aleut 

Aleut culture of the Early period was fundamentally 
similar to that of the Late period, which I have just 
described. Undoubtedly there were numerous stylistic 
differences between the two periods, but these are as yet 
unrevealed. W. H. Dall, the first archaeologist to make 
excavations in the Aleutians, thought that there were 
three radically different stages of Aleut development. 
Later excavations by W. L Jochelson showed that Ball's 
conclusions were faulty and based upon insufficient 
evidence. Jochelson, in fact, reached the conclusion that 
there were no important differences between the earliest 
and latest Aleut. A true perspective of Aleut archaeology 
lies somewhere in between these two extremes. The 
available evidence indicates that there are some differ- 
ences between the Early and Late periods of Aleut cul- 
ture. Probably future stratigraphic investigations will 
add to the number of differences. 


People ' - - 

According to A. Hrdlicka, the Aleut of the Early period 
(Pre-Aleut, he calls them) were of a different physical 
type than the later population. These early Aleut had 
longer and higher skulls and their features were more 
delicate. They somewhat resembled northern Eskimos 
as well as some Indians in British Columbia and Cali- 
fornia. They were, however, quite different from modern 
Aleut. It is not known if the later population is the 
result of an alien people invading the Aleutians. What- 
ever the case may be, it is certain that at one time both 
physical types were together on the Aleutian Islands and 
possessed a typically Aleut culture. 

Conjectures - - - 

The ingredients of Aleut culture are Eskimo, Indian, 
and Siberian in character. In varying proportions it is 
similar to that of Alaskan Eskimos, both northern and 
southern; interior Indians from Alaska to Washington; 
Northwest Coast Indians; and natives of Kamchatka in 
Siberia. A hypothetical reconstruction of Aleut pre- 
history is as follows: 

The Aleut were an Eskimo-speaking, hunting people 
who left Asia at the end of the Siberian Paleolithic stage 
about 2,000 or more years ago. Like many other immi- 
grants before them, the ancient Aleut crossed into America 
at Bering Strait; and also, like some of the previous 
immigrants who spoke Indian languages, the early Aleut 
were carriers of a circumpolar and perhaps circumboreal 
hunting culture indigenous to the Old World. 

The Aleut worked their way southward until they 
eventually were stopped by the pressure of Indians of a 
similar culture who occupied the coast and the interior 
from a point south of Alaska down through British 
Columbia. The ancient Aleut therefore moved into the 
Alaska Peninsula and then to the Aleutian Islands, where 
they gradually adapted themselves to their new environ- 


ment. This was not hard to do, because their ancestral 
hunting culture could be adapted to hunting on sea or on 
land according to necessity. 

In the course of time, new Eskimo groups drove a 
wedge between the Aleut and their Indian neighbors. 
The newcomers took over the greater portion of the Alaska 
Peninsula and occupied the coasts and islands both north 
and south. Confined for the most part to their island 
homeland, the Aleut became excellent hunters and navi- 
gators. With their skin-covered boats they made trips to 
the Siberian mainland at Kamchatka. It is possible that 
the change in Aleut physical type was brought about by 
intermarriage with natives of Kamchatka. 

While the Aleut were maintaining trade and com- 
merce with Kamchatka, they also were in contact with 
their southern Eskimo neighbors and from them were 
receiving Eskimo and Indian influences. Some time in 
the Late period the southern Eskimo and the Aleut were 
profoundly influenced by the Northwest Coast Indians, 
whose culture was in part a spectacular development out 
of the old hunting culture stratum which had blocked the 
southward movement of the ancient Aleut. 

The geographical position of the Aleut made them the 
middlemen in the distribution of Asiatic and American 
culture traits along the north Pacific shores of Asia and 
America. Although the Eskimos at Bering Strait were 
similarly engaged, the two trading systems seem to have 
been independent. 




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pp. 215-222. 
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Folklore, vol. 20, pp. 132-142. 
1909. Eskimo and Aleut Stories. Journal of American Folklore, 

vol. 22, pp. 10-24. 
1925. Bering's Voyages. American Geographical Society Research 

Series, No. 2, xi + 290 pp., 2 pis., 30 figs. 

Heizer, R. F. 

1938. Aconite Arrow Poison in the Old and New World. Journal 
of the Washington Academy of Science, vol. 28, pp. 358-364. 

1943. Aconite Poison Whaling in Asia and America, an Aleutian 
Transfer to the New World. Bureau of American Ethnology, 
Bull. 133, Anthropological Papers, No. 24, pp. 415-468. 

Hrdlicka, Ales 

1930. Anthropological Survey in Alaska. Bureau of American 
Ethnology, 46th Annual Report, pp. 19-374. 

1936. Archaeological Exploration on Kodiak and the Aleutian 
Islands. Explorations and Field-Work of the Smithsonian 
Institution, pp. 57-62. 

1937. Anthropological Explorations on the Aleutian and Com- 
mander Islands. Explorations and Field-Work of the Smith- 
sonian Institution, pp. 87-94. 

1938. Exploration in the Aleutian and the Commander Islands. 
Explorations and Field-Work of the Smithsonian Institution, 
pp. 79-86. 

1941. Exploration of Mummy Caves in the Aleutian Islands. 
Scientific Monthly, vol. 52, pp. 5-23, 113-130. 


1928. Aleut Hunting Headgear and Its Ornamentation. Inter- 
national Congress of Americanists, vol. 23, pp. 477-504. 


1912. The Aleut Language and Its Relation to the Eskimo 
Dialects. International Congress of Americanists, vol. 18, pp. 

1912. Scientific Results of the Ethnological Section of the Ria- 
bouschinsky Expedition. International Congress of Ameri- 
canists, vol. 18, pp. 334-343. 

1925. Archaeological Investigations in the Aleutian Islands. 
Carnegie Institution of Washington, Publication No. 367, 
145 pp., 28 pis., 110 text figs. 


1928. People of the Foggy Seas. Natural History, vol. 28, 
pp. 413-424. 

1933. History, Ethnology and Anthropology of the Aleut. Car- 
negie Institution of Washington, Publication No. 432, 91 pp., 
27 figs. 

Kroeber, a. L. 

1939. Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North America. 
University of California Publications in American Archaeology 
and Ethnology, vol. 38. 

Mason, 0. T. 

1884. Throwing-Sticks in the National Museum. Report of the 

United States National Museum, pp. 279-289. 
1900. Aboriginal American Harpoons. Report of the United 

States National Museum, pp. 193-304. 
1902. Aboriginal American Basketry. Report of the United 

States National Museum, pp. 171-548. 


1872. Les Aleoutes et leur origine. Memoirs de la Societe d'Ethno- 
graphie, vol. 11, pp. 155-165. 

Weyer, E. M. 

1929. An Aleutian Burial. American Museum of Natural History, 
Anthropological Papers, vol. 31, pp. 219-238. 

1930. Archaeological Material from the Village Site at Hot 
Springs, Port MoUer, Alaska. American Museum of Natural 
History, Anthropological Papers, vol. 31, pp. 239-279. 




Aconite poison, 13 

Adzes, 20, pi. 6, figs. 2, 18 

Alaska Peninsula, 3, 41, 42 

Aleut, description of, 4, 5; history 
of, 41 

Aleutian Islands, climate of, 4, 7, 
16; discovery of, 3; geography 
of, 4; population of (ca. 1741 ),3 

Amulets, 35, 36 

Archaeology of Aleut, 40 

Armor, 16, pi. 8 

Arrows, 9 

Art, 26, 28, text fig. 8 

Avunculate, 29 

Awls, 20, text fig. 6, c, d, h-l 

Back scratcher, 21 

Bancroft, H. H., 29, 30, 31, 32, 

33, 34 
Basketry, 21, pi. 3 
Bathing, 16 
Bering, Vitus, 3 
Bering Strait, 41, 42 
Bladder dart, 9 
Bladder float, 10, text fig. 2, o; 

mouthpiece of, 10, text fig. 8, / 
Bladders, for fuel oil, 18; for 

drinking water, 18 
Blood feuds, 34 
Boats; see Kayak, Umiak 
Bone handles, 21; tubes, 9 
Boots, 22 

Bow and arrow, 9, 10, 14, 16, pi. 1 
Bow-drill, 18, 20, text fig. 1, e 
Bowls, 18 
Boxes, 18 
Bracelets, 26 
Burial, 37, 38 

Canoe; see Kayak, Umiak 

Ceremonial treatment of stran- 
gers, 32 

Ceremonies, 32, 33; of winter 
festival, 33 

Chanting, 33 

Chiefs, 28 

Chirikov, Alexei, 3 

Children, education of, 30; pun- 
ishment of, 31 

Chisels, 20, text fig. 6, e, /, m 

Choris, Louis, 22 

Class structure of society, 28 

Clothing; see 

(^lubs, 12, 16, text fig. 2, d, pi. 2 

Coal, 18 

Combs, 21 

Cook, Captain James, 6 

Cooking, 16 

Cousins, 29, 30; cross, 30; par- 
allel, 29, 30 

Cradles, 20 

Cremation, 37 

Culture of Aleut, decline of, 39; 
extermination of, 39 

Dall, W. H., 40 

Dances, 33, 34 

Darts; see Spears, Harpoon darts 

Death, 37 

Decoration of face, 24, 26; also 

see Art 
Digging-stick (root pick), 20 
Dog sled (Eskimo), 16 
Dress, 22, 23, text figs. 3, 5, pis. 

1-4; ornamental fringes on, 26 
Drill points, 20 
Drums, 33, 37 

Early period (of Aleut culture), 

Elders, 28 
Engraving, 26 
Eskimos, 4, 5, 7, 12, 29, 31, 33, 

35, 36, 37, 41, 42 

Feuds, 34 

F'ire making, 18 

Fishing, 7, 14; equipment for, 14, 

text fig. 4 
Fishing rights, 34 
Flaking tools, 20 
Food, 4 

Food-gathering, 7, 16 
Frying pan, 16 
Fuel oil, 18 

Games, 31 

Colder, F. A., 4, 7, 22, 24, 32 


Greenland, 6, 8 
Grinding stones, 21 

Hammerstones, 20 

Handles (for carrying), 21 

Harpoons, 9, 10, 12, 14, text fig. 
2, «, 6,/-/(, pi. 5, figs. 1,4, 5-7, 

Hats, of bird skin or feathers, 24, 
pis. 2, 3; of fur, 24, pi. 1; of 
wood, 22, 23, text fig. 7, pi. 8 

Houses, 6, 7, text fig. 1, a; com- 
munal, 7; community (kas- 
him), 7, 28; entrance of, 6; 
temporary, 7 

Household, 29 

HrdHcka, A., 41 

Hudson's Bay, 6 

Hunting, on land, 7, 10, 13, 14, 
text figs. 3, 5, pi. 1; rights, 34; 
at sea, 7, 10, 13; supernatural 
aids for, 35; taboos, 36 

Indians, 4, 16, 29, 41, 42 
Inheritance, 30 

Jochelson, W. I., 35, 36, 40 

Kamchadals (natives of Kam- 
chatka), 22 

Kamchatka, 13, 42 

Kayak, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 18, pi. 
7; repairs on at sea, 8, 9 

Kinship, 29, 30 

Knives, 18, 20, pi. 6, figs. 1, 6, 10 

Kurile Islands, 13 

Labrets, 24, 37, text fig. 8, g, j, k 
Ladders, 6 

Lamps, 18, text fig. 1, b-d 
Lances, 9, 12, 13, 14, text fig. 2, i, 

pl. 5, fig. 2 
Language, 6 
Late period (of Aleut culture), 

40, 42 
Levashev, — , 22 
Levirate, 29 
Livelihood, 7 

Marriage, 28, 29; by capture, 29, 
34; cross-cousin, 30; by pur- 

Masks, 26, 33, 36, text fig. 9 
Mats, 21 
Mauls, 20 
Mongoloid race, 4 
Mortars, 21 
Mummification, 37 

Music, 33 
Mythology, 36 

Names, 31 

Needles, 20, 24, text fig. 6, n; 

cases for, 20, text fig. 6, o 
Nets, 14; sinkers for, 14; spacers 

for, 21, text fig. 6, g; used for 

catching birds, 14 
New Denmark; see Greenland 
Northwest Coast Indians, 42 
Nose pins, 24 

Octopus hook, 14 
Ownership marks, 13 

Paint, 26; sources as property, 
30; stealing of as cause of war, 

Painting, 23, 24, 26, 28 

Paleolithic (of Siberia), 41 

Parkas; see Dress 

Pigments, 26 

Pincers, 16 

Polygamy, 29 

Pottery, 21 

Pre-Aleut, 41 

Projectile points, 18, 20, pl. 6, 
figs. 7-9, 12-17 

Property, 30; disputes over, 34 

Rattles, 33 
Raw materials, 4 
Religion, 35, 36 
Revenge, 34 
Root digger, 16 

Samoyeds, 8 

Scrapers, 20, pl. 6, figs. 3, 4, 11 

Sculpture, 26 

Sea cow, 4 

Sea lions, 4 

Sea otter, 4 

Seals, 4, fig. 2, e 

Sewing, 20 

Shamans, 36 

Shirts; see Dress 

Shovels, 20 

Sickness, caused by evil spirits, 

Sinew thread, 20 
Singing, 33 

Skin boats; see Kayak, Umiak 
Slaves, 28, 33, 34, 37 
Snowshoes (Indian), 16 
Society, organization of, 28 
Sororate, 29 


Spears, 9, 16; bird, 9, 10, 14, 
text fig. 5, pi. 5, figs. 3, 8; 
fish, 14, text fig. 4, c-d, pi. 5, 
figs. 3, 8, 14; see also Harpoons 
and Lances 

Spear-thrower, 9, 10, 14, 16, text 
tigs. 2, b-c, 5 

Spoons, 18 

Steller, G. W., 4, 7, 8, 22, 24, 26, 

Stone lamps, 7, text fig. 1, b d 

Sucking tube, 21 

Supernatural power, 34, 35, 36 

Tanning, 17 

Tattooing, 24, 26 

Tent, 7 

Toboggan (Indian), 16 

Tombs, log, 37 

Tools, 18; graving, 20, 26, text 

fig. 8, m, pi. 6, fig. 5 
Travel and transportation, 16 

Trophy heads, 34 
Trousers; see Dress 

Umiak, 16, 18 
Urine trough, 6 
Utensils, 18 

Villages, 6, 28, 30, 34, 35 

Walrus, 4 

War, 34 

Weapons, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16 

Weaving, 21, pi. 3 

Webber, John, 22 

Wedges, 20, text fig. 6, a b 

Whale, 4, 13 

Whaling, 12, 13: cult of, 13, 28, 

30; harpoon (Eskimo), 12 
Wife-lending, 33 
Wood-working, 20 
Woven bags, 16 


PUte 1 

Costume probably that worn by the mainland Aleut * 

Plate 2 



Plate 3 



Plate 4 




Plate 5 

9 10 


Figs. 1, 4, 9-13, Barbed harpoon heads. Fig. 2, Spear or lance head. 

Fig. 3, A center prong for a fish or bird spear. Figs. 5-7, Toggle 

heads for harpoons. Fig. 8, A side prong for a fish or bird spear. 

Fig. 14, A point for a single-headed fish spear. 

Pljte 6 



jm A 

H4 1 i i 2 

12 13 14 15 16 17 


Fig. 1, Woman's knife (ulu) with bon,- handle. Figs. 2, 18, Adzes. 

Figs. 6. 10, Knives. Figs. 3, 4, 11, Scrapers. Fig. 5, Graving tooL 

Figs. 7-9, 12-17, Projectile points. 










< 1 











< 8 



'i ' 

! I 





: .1 1 ;• r 




i [ 



Lower: Aleut armor of wooden rods twined together with thongs 

of skin or sinew. Upper: One of several styles of wooden hats 

worn by the Aleut and their neighbors. Courtesy of United States 

National Museum. 

The Anthropological Leaflets of the Chicago Natural History- 
Museum are designed to give brief, non-technical accounts of some 
of the more interesting beliefs, habits and customs of the races whose 
life is illustrated in the Museum's exhibits. 


1. The Chinese Gateway (supply exhausted) $ — 

2. Philippine Forge Group 10 

3. Japanese Collections .20 

4. New Guinea Masks 15 

5. The Thunder Ceremony of the Pawnee 20 

6. The Sacrifice to the Morning Star by the Skidi 

Pawnee .10 

7. Purification of the Sacred Bundles, a Ceremony of 

the Pawnee 10 

8. Annual Ceremony of the Pawnee Medicine Men . .10 

9. The Use of Sago in New Guinea 10 

10. Use of Human Skulls and Bones in Tibet 10 

11. The Japanese New Year's Festival, Games and 

Pastimes 15 

12. Japanese Costume .20 

13. Gods and Heroes of Japan 15 

14. Japanese Temples and Houses 15 

15. Use of Tobacco among North American Indians . .20 

16. Use of Tobacco in Mexico and South America . . .15 

17. Use of Tobacco in New Guinea and Neighboring 

Regions .10 

18. Tobacco and Its Use in Asia 25 

19. Introduction of Tobacco into Europe 25 

20. The Japanese Sword and Its Decoration 15 

21. Ivory in China 60 

22. Insect-Musicians and Cricket Champions of China . .40 

23. Ostrich Egg-shell Cups of Mesopotamia and the 

Ostrich in Ancient and Modern Times .... .30 

24. The Indian Tribes of the Chicago Region with 

Special Reference to the Illinois and the 
Potawatomi .25 

25. The Civilization of the Mayas 60 

26. The Early History of Man (supply exhausted) ... — 

27. The Giraffe in History and Art 60 

28. The Field Museum-Oxford University Expedition 

to Kish, Mesopotamia, 1923-1929 50 

29. Tobacco and Its Use in Africa 25 

30. The Races of Mankind 25 

31. Prehistoric Man 25 

32. Primitive Hunters of Australia .30 

33. Archaeology of South America 75 

34. Ancient Seals of the Near East .25 

35. Aleutian Islanders 35 

ORR GOODSON, Acting Director 

Formerly field museum op natural history