Aleut - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The sea was the direct and indirect provider of virtually all of the Aleuts' Subsistence needs. These gatherer-hunters depended on a broad spectrum of plentiful resources, including marine mammals (like sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters), marine invertebrates (like sea urchins, clams, and mussels), birds and eggs (like murres, puffins, ducks, and geese), and fish (like cod, halibut, and several species of salmon). Plant foods, primarily berries, provided only a small part of their diet. With Russian contact came a few imported foodstuffs, but the major Economic changes resulted from the subsequent loss of population and most of the men being forced to work for the Russian fur hunters as procurers of sea otter and other animal pelts. Beginning in the late 1700s, some Aleuts were relocated seasonally, eventually resettling permanently on the Pribilof Islands north of the Aleutian archipelago. The Pribilofs are the breeding grounds of the northern fur seal, and Aleut labor was crucial to Russian efforts to harvest these pelts. In the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, Aleuts from the Aleutian Islands found seasonal employment in the Pribilof fur seal harvest, and others pursued fox trapping, commercial fishing, and traditional Subsistence activities. Today, many Aleuts continue hunting, gathering, and fishing for the traditional food items, but all are involved to some degree in the Western cash economy. Many work away from their villages at seasonal construction and fishing, since employment in the villages is generally limited.

Industrial Arts. Prior to Russian contact, Aleut material culture consisted primarily of tools manufactured from local stone and sea mammal and bird bone. Other important raw materials included grass for baskets and matting and driftwood for boats, houses, masks, and other carved objects. Today, traditional crafts are limited mostly to the very finely woven grass baskets made by just a few women for sale.

Trade. Aboriginally, trade within the Aleutian region was apparently confined largely to items of localized availability: amber, obsidian, and walrus ivory. During the Russian period, Aleuts became increasingly dependent on metal tools and, to a certain extent, imported foodstuffs.

Division of Labor. Although traditionally there was general division of labor by both age and sex, a feature of the Aleut food economy was that most members of a community could make an important contribution to their families' food supplies. Thus, though younger, able-bodied Aleut men traditionally did all the hunting at sea, few other subsistence pursuits were restricted to only one group. This basic pattern continues to the present: men are still the only ones who go out in their skiffs to hunt, while all members of the Community fish, collect marine invertebrates, gather eggs, and so on.

Land Tenure. Prior to Russian contact, land, strictly speaking, had much less value than coastline, and Aleuts likely maintained rights to hunt, fish, and gather along specific portions of the coast. With the 1971 passage of the Federal Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, each Aleut village selected a certain amount of land within the Aleutian Islands region to own, and the regional Aleut Corporation likewise was given title to certain lands.

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Ashlyn
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Oct 3, 2018 @ 6:18 pm
I have a question and a comment...

Why is there only the simplest of the foods that they ate on here? I'm doing a project in school on food in three tribes and I need the simple and complicated foods that they ate. I really thought this website would help me.

I also have a suggestion. You could find out what other FOODS that they are that AREN'T just the meat and crops.

Thanks!

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