Alutiiq Culture

The Alutiiq Culture is the southern coastal lifestyle of an Alaskan Native people who subsist primarily on ocean resources such as salmon, halibut, and whale, as well as rich land resources.

Their traditional homelands include Prince William Sound and the outer Kenai Peninsula (Chugach Sugpiaq), the Kodiak Archipelago, and the Alaska Peninsula (Koniag Alutiiq).

The Alutiiq people (plural is Alutiit), also called by their ancestral name Sugpiaq (plural is Sugpiat) as well as Pacific Eskimo or Pacific Yupik, are a southern coastal people of Alaska Natives.

At present, the most commonly used title is Alutiiq (singular), Alutiik (dual), and Alutiit (plural). These terms derive from the Aleut names that Russian fur traders and settlers gave to the native people in the region.

For this reason, and because the Sugpiaq term for Aleut is Alutiiq, some Alaska Natives from the region have advocated the use of the terms that the people use to describe their people — Sugpiaq (singular), Sugpiak (dual), and Sugpiat (plural) — to describe the people (meaning "the real people").

All three names (Alutiiq, Aleut, and Sugpiaq) are used interchangeably now, according to personal preference, and many other ethnonyms have also been given to the people.

However, they are not to be confused with the Aleuts, who are a different people who are also called Aleuts, who live further to the southwest, including along the Aleutian Islands.

Alutiiq Culture

Fishing and housing

These people traditionally lived a coastal lifestyle, subsisting primarily on ocean resources such as salmon, halibut, and whale, as well as rich land resources such as berries and land mammals.

Before contact with Russian fur traders, they lived in semi-subterranean homes called ciqlluaq.

Today, in the 21st century, the Alutiiq live in coastal fishing communities, where they work in all aspects of the modern economy, while also maintaining the cultural values of subsistence.

Alutiiq Language

In the Alutiiq culture, their language is called Sugstun (alternate spellings: Sugcestun, Sugt'stun, Sugtestun. It is one of the  Eskimo languages, belonging to the Yup’ik branch of these languages.

In 2010 the high school in Kodiak responded to requests from students and agreed to teach the Alutiiq language. The Kodiak dialect of the language was being spoken by only about 50 persons, all of them elderly, and the dialect was in danger of being lost entirely.

Alutiiq History

Russian occupation began in 1784 with the massacre of hundreds of Sugpiat at Refuge Rock (Awa'uq) just off the coast of Sitkalidak Island near the present-day village of Old Harbor (Nuniaq).

In the early 1800s there were more than 60 Alutiiq villages in the Kodiak archipelago with an estimated population of 13,000 people. 

Today more than 4,000 Alutiiq people live in Alaska.


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Chugach Migration Legend

Their own legends say they came from the North, I heard the following story: “To the north from Kodiak Island there is a little settlement, Chilkak. There a powerful old man created man and woman.

Traditional dwellings of the Alutiiq and Aleuts

Traditional dwellings of the Alutiiq and Aleuts were called a barabara or barabora in Russian; ulax̂, ulaagamax, ulaq, or ulas (plural) in Aleut; or a ciqlluaq in Alutiiq ~ Sugpiaq. They are the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands.