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Athabascan Indian Village Life

 

The Athabascan Indians traditionally lived in Interior Alaska from the Brooks Mountain Range in the north to the Kenai Peninsula in the south. They settled along the Yukon, Tanana, Susitna, Kuskokwim and Copper rivers. They were nomadic, traveling to fish, hunt and trap.

This Athabascan village we visited is on the confluence of the Chena and Tanana rivers. The image above is of a typical log cabin with sod roof and an adjoining cache cabin for storing food. The sod roof weighs down the overlapping bark covering the cabin to keep it in place. It also adds a layer of insulation.

This one room log cabin is made from spruce logs which are abundant in the area.

A barrel stove warms up the cabin.

Fur pelts hang outside the cache cabin where food is stored high above the ground to be out of reach of animals. These pelts are used for clothing, blankets, bed cushions, tent covers and other purposes.

Costumes worn by Athabascan men and women are made of animal skin and decorated with beads.

A fishwheel for catching salmon.

Salmon is caught from the river using a fishwheel made of logs and poles. It is air dried then moved to the smokehouse. These dried salmon will be fed to the dogs which villagers keep for their winter trapping activities. Note, King and Silver salmon are for village consumption while the lower quality, Chum salmon, is fed to the dogs. Each dog gets one salmon per day.

Smokehouse.

Reindeer in their natural habitat on the banks of the river.

Moose
Clearly a trophy moose with its incredible size and weight. Notice its well defined antlers and how different it is from those of reindeers or elk. Antlers were used as tools.

The Athabascan Indians made kayaks from moose hide and birch bark.

Athabascans led a nomadic life following the trail of food sources. They used different kinds of tent covers including one made from animal skin.

Tent covered with pine needles used for warmer weather.

This is the type of tent that was set up at fish camps during the summer months.

Trading post at the village where grocery items may be found.

Goods sold at the trading post.

Post Office
The post office was only open when there was mail delivery. Mail was delivered by bushplane, dog team or riverboat. Villagers came out to greet the riverboat crew then gathered at the post office to receive their mail and supplies. Dog teams delivered the mail to remote villages in winter when the river was frozen and riverboats could no longer operate.

Notice the bronze statue of Granite by the door. Granite was the lead dog of the late Susan Butcher’s Iditarod team which won several races in Alaska.

These beautiful flowers are thriving through the short fall season. Alaska is full of surprises.

How to get there:
I took a three-hour sternwheeler cruise along the Chena River in Fairbanks and got off at the Chena Indian Village Living Museum. Native guides showed us around the village and told us about their culture and traditions. This was one of the best tours I took while traveling in Northern  Alaska. For more info check this website: https://www.riverboatdiscovery.com/

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie


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