Thursday, November 19, 2009

Singing, dancing, and beating

The major ceremonial event around which Athabaskan society revolved was the potlatch. The term applies to various formal occasions when one group host another, distributing gifts to the guest to mark important social events. This is a potlatch taking place in Minto, AK for a grandmothers funeral. They dance for hours, singing songs and beating drums. It's just amazing how dressed up they can get, with such pretty designs on there outfits. Not so much in this video, but i've seen some other potlatches.


Beliefs revolved around the similarities between men and animals, I think that's why the drum had animals on it. Both have spirits and in the past they communicated directly with each other. These ancient relationships had been transformed by the acts and antics of Raven, a culture hero and trickster who constantly disrupted the moral order by deception. The Athabaskan culture told stories to there children, tales concerning the activities of Raven, along with other mythical beings which exemplify concepts of right and wrong. The important animals like the caribou, bear and wolf were respected through ritual practices, such as sexual abstinence and taboos, in order to remain in the good graces of the animal spirit. Offending the Malevolent spirt caused your children to be lost in the forest by "woodsman" lurking in the forest and capturing them. Landon, S. (2002). The Native People of Alaska. Anchorage, AK: Greatland Graphics.

Fish Trap

The fish trap consisted of two pieces, I use past tense because fish traps are not used anymore. The first part is the opening through which the fish enter. It is fairly large and wide and can either be rectangular or circular. The large opening narrows down to where the fish cannot exit the direction they entered. The second part is the net. This is the long, tube looking part of the trap which holds the fish. The two pieces are lashed together to keep the fish from escaping as they swim into the trap. The fish trap can be used during summer and winter.

Birch wood

It sounded like birch wood was a big use in an everyday use, like housing, transportation, hunting, and ceremonies. Athabaskans used birch bark canoes, toboggans made from small birch trees or branches, constructed their summer houses of birch bark and made weapons of birch wood like the fish trap.

The stick dance

The stick dance is when a men of the tribe put a tall spruce pole in the center of their community hall. The family and friends then decorate it with their gifts, once that is done everyone joins in and dances around the pole that is slow and shuffling in character. They chant ritual songs all night long while doing this and meditating about those that have died. The next morning the pole gets taken down and carried past each home in the village on it's way down to the Yukon River. There it is broken up and thrown into the river. The stick dance isn't done annually, so even though a few years may go between the actual death of a loved one and the Stick dance Ceremony to honor his memory.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Clothing mainly consist of moose and caribou hide, which is sewn by women and men. But mostly women. Traditional clothing reflects the resources. Moose and caribou hide moccasins and boots were important part of the wardrobe, and the outfits are very beautiful. The process to tan skin is a hard labour job, you need strength, patience and skill. They go into great detail with the sewing and beads.


For centuries, Athathabakan women have been creating beautiful beaded clothing and other decorative objects. Traditionally, they used carved wooden beads, shells, seeds and quills. Glass beads were introduced after the European contact. After the advent of the French in Canada, elaborate floral designs were popular in the 18th and 19th century so beadwork designs for many years have been flowers and leaves. But in the early years, Athabaskan beadwork consisted primarily of simple geometric patterns.


Learning about the Athabascan culture was amazing, how efficient hunters and fishers they are. Moose, caribou, salmon, and the birch trees are the most significant rescources, it provides them food, clothes and shelter. Athabaskan Indians live in interior of Alaska and is the biggest land base of any other Alaska native group. Athabaskan people are one of the strongest natives I know, they have to deal with the coldest(-50's) weather and the hottest(80's) weather.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The frame of the drum is made of birch wood,and moose or caribou was used for the face of the drum while it was tied back with babiche(rawhide, formed into strips). The handle is a forked caribou antler with velvet still attached. Drums were used in community gatherings for singing and dancing. These songs and dances were usually family specific and told about events or things that had happened in that family. Drums have this amazing resonance with the human body and can actually alter our state of mind and our bodily rhythms. It was, and still is, important to behave with respect towards the natural and spiritual worlds because animals gave themselves to the hunters. Because of the scarcity of game in the interior regions, Athabaskan peoples are very independent.


Our class made a trip to the Anchorage Museum, and we had picked an object that really touched us or made a connection with us, or what culture we wanted to learn about. I had came across the Athabaskcan culture and seen the drums. The Athabskan culture has always caught my eye, I have family members who are Athabaskcan, so I thought I would learn more about that culture. The reason I picked the drum was because of the designs, it brought back memories. My head filled with memories to when my parents were together and we would always be out hunting or doing family activities. The drum had pictures of a moose, bird, wolf, a man, and caribou. Animals meant something to me, whether it was hunting it, or just always seeing them.