Our Way of Living
Alutiiq identity - the sense of belonging to a people, a place, a culture - grows from the intimacy of family life, the love and teaching of parents and grandparents, and a social world that includes cousins, uncles, aunts, and dozens of other relatives in the village and beyond. Alutiiq people trace relations and ancestors through many generations.
Chiefs and wealthy families were in the upper level of 18th century Alutiiq society. In the lowest level were slaves, who were usually war captives from other villages. There were specialists of various kinds, including whalers, shamans, and kassat ("wise men") who composed songs and dances. Weather forecasters gave advice to sea travelers. Healers and midwives had expert knowledge of plant medicines and treatments.
In traditional homes, Alutiiq families cooked and ate, crafted baskets and carvings, repaired weapons and tools, sewed clothing, and passed the time with games and stories. Toys for children were fun, but also taught spiritual lessons. Each toy had its own season of play, marked by the migration of birds and animals. Adults played competitive games of skill, often betting on the outcome.
The steambath - called maqiwik in the Alutiiq language and banya in Russian - is an ancient tradition that is still enjoyed today. Inside the banya are benches, tubs of hot and cold water, and a wood-fired stove for heating rocks. A splash of water produces clouds of hot, cleansing steam.
The banya is a place for washing, socializing, and healing, both physically and spiritually. Elder Jennie Zeedar relieved her arthritis pain with steam and herbs: "I remembered my healer, so I did what she told me . after I took that one hot banya it felt good."
WOVEN BASKET | WOMAN'S BOWL | WATER DIPPER | TOY KAYAK | TOY BOW | TOSSING DISKS | THREAD BOBBIN | SPOOL | SKIN BAG | SEAL BOWL | ROCK PADDLE | NOSE ORNAMENT | IVORY CARVINGS | GRASS MAT | GOAT HORN SPOON | GAME DISK | DOLL | DART GAME | CARVING TOOL | CARVING KNIFE | BIRD BOWL | BENTWOOD BOX |