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An Athabascans woman prepares fish to be dried

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Athabaskans

An Interior Alaska Indian group, Athabaskans' early territory ranged from the Brooks Range in Alaska's Far North to Cook Inlet in Southcentral Alaska and from near Norton Sound in the west to the Canadian border and beyond. There are 11 known languages among the varying groups of Athabaskans (ath-uh-BASS-kuns), among them the Eyak language of Prince William Sound, even though the Alaska Native Heritage Center puts the Eyak Natives with Southeast Alaska groups. Athabaskans traditionally depended on rivers for their subsistence and settled near some of Alaska's larger rivers, including the Yukon, Tanana, Susitna, Kuskokwim and Copper rivers.

The Athabascans were nomadic hunters and fishermen who migrated around the same time as the Northwest Coast Indians.

The Athabascans built winter base camps and summer fish camps and lived and traveled in small groups of between 20 and 40 people. In their matrilineal system, clan elders made the important decisions for the group, and the core unit was often a woman and her brother with both of their families. The mother's brother still frequently takes charge of educating her children in clan lore and tradition.

Because resources were seasonal, Athabascan men engaged heavily in trade with other communities. They used canoes made of birch bark and moose hide, as well as sleds and dogs, to transport goods. Clothing was also resource-based; moose and caribou hides were used for tunics, moccasins, and other articles.


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