Alaska’s Native people are divided into eleven distinct cultures, speaking twenty different languages. In order to tell the stories of this diverse population, the Alaska Native Heritage Center is organized on the basis of five cultural groupings that have cultural similarities or geographic proximity. They are:
The Athabascan people traditionally lived in Interior Alaska, a large region. There are eleven linguistic groups, and they traditionally live along five major river ways. They tend to travel in small groups to fish, hunt and trap
- Yup’ik & Cup’ik
The southwest Alaska Natives are named after the two main dialects of the Yup’ik language, known as Yup’ik and Cup’ik. They tend to live on fishing, hunting and gathering for food. Elders tell stories of traditional ways of life, as a way to teach the younger generations survival skills and their heritage.
- Inupiaq & St. Lawrence Island Yupik
The Inupiaq and the St. Lawrence Island Yupik People, or “Real People,” are hunting and gathering societies. They continue to live on the land and sea of north and northwest Alaska. Their lives focus around the whale, walrus, seal, polar bear, caribou and fish.
- Aleut & Alutiiq
The Aleut and Alutiiq peoples are south and southwest Alaska, maritime peoples. The water is their living, whether it’s the creeks and rivers near villages, the shore outside, or the vast waters of the North Pacific and Bering Sea. Knowledge of these resources and skill in harvesting them define the cycle of life in a village. The intensity of the weather that travels through our islands governs activities more than any other factor.
- Eyak, Tlingit, Haida & Tsimshian
The Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian share a common and similar Northwest Coast Culture with important differences in language and clan system. These cultures consist of peoples indigenous to the Pacific coast, extending as far as northern Oregon. They have a complex social system. The region from the Copper River Delta to the Southeast Panhandle is a temperate rainforest with precipitation ranging from 112 inches per year to almost 200 inches per year. Here the people depend on the ocean and rivers for their food and travel.
Health Status of Alaska Natives
Most health data on Alaska Natives is combined with that of other Native Americans/American Indians in the United States. One of the best sources of Alaska Native Health Data is the Alaska Native Health Board (ANHB) at www.anhb.org. Established in 1968, it is recognized as the statewide voice on Alaska Native health issues. The ANHB promotes the spiritual, physical, mental, social and cultural well-being and pride of Alaska Natives. The Board has 23 members, representing various Health Directors or health committees of different regions of Alaska.
The 2000 census data reported that the median age of Alaska Natives was 24 years, compared with 29 years for the total State of Alaska population, and 33 years for the entire United States. About 44% were under 20 years of age, and seven (7) % were 60 years of age and above.
Although Alaska Natives have made great strides in education during this century, they remain less likely to have high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees or higher education than other Alaskans.
Sixty-three (63) % percent of Native Alaskans 25 years of age or above had completed high school or more, compared with 87% statewide. Four percent were college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher, while the statewide total was 23%. Female Householder Families