Alaskan Athabaskans

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Alaskan Athabaskans
210 gwichin hunter summerclothing.jpg
Gwichyaa Gwich’in Athabaskan hunters with summer dress at Fort Yukon, c1851. Their garments include a beaded tunic and moccasin pants.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Northern Athabaskan languages, American English (Alaskan variant), Russian (historically)
Shamanism (largely ex), Christianity

The Alaskan Athabascans,[2][3][4][5] Alaskan Athabaskans,[6][7] Alaskan Athapaskans[8] (Russian: атабаски Аляски or атапаски Аляски)[9] are Alaska Native peoples of the Northern Athabaskan-speaking ethnolinguistic group. They are the original inhabitants of the interior of Alaska and neighboring Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada to the east. In Alaska, where they are the oldest, there are eleven (or thirteen) groups identified by the languages (or dialect) they speak.

Formerly the word Tinneh was employed to designate the Alaskan Athabaskans, this word being taken from their own language Dinaa or Dena and signifying simply "men" or "people" (nowadays Alaskan Dene; cf. Dene for Canadian Athabaskans).[10]

The Alaskan Athabascan culture is an inland creek and river fishing (also coastal fishing by only Dena'ina of Cook Inlet) and hunter-gatherer culture; the Alaskan Athabascans have a matrilineal system in which children belong to the mother's clan, with the exception of the Yupikized Athabaskans (Holikachuk and Deg Hit'an).[11]

Alaska Athabasken or Alaska Dene[edit]

The Alaska Dene are generally divided into eleven tribal groups, some of which are also found in the adjacent Yukon and Northwest-Territories (from northwest to southeast); since most Alaska Athabaskans are known under anglicized names of neighboring - often non-Athabascan peoples - the most common tribal designations are reproduced here, second (in brackets) their autonyms and third the background or source of the today common tribal names (unless otherwise stated the autonym simply means "men" or "people"):

1. Koyukon (Dinaa or Denaa, Tl'eeyegge Hut'aane - ″People with a common language"[12], often the individual regional bands and local groups simply called themselves Hut'aane / Hotana meaning "one who dwells" or "resident of [a region]" with a place or river name as an addition; name background: Koyukukhotana - ″People along Koyukuk River″)

  • Kaiyuhkhotana or Lower Yukon Koyukon (lived along the Yukon River between Anvik River and Koyukuk River inclusive the Innoko River drainage area 63rd parallel north, were regarded as enemies by the Koyukukhotana and Yukonikhotana / Unakhotana, only they opposed the Europeans)
  • Koyukukhotana or Koyukuk River Koyukon (drainage area of the Koyukuk River, their autonym is the source for the collective name for all Koyukon people)
  • Yukonikhotana / Unakhotana or Upper Yukon Koyukon (drainage area of the Yukon River, from south of the mouth of the Tanana River to the mouth of the Koyukuk River)

2. Gwich'in or Kutchin (Dinjii Zhuu - ″Small People″, but figuratively it refers to all Indians, not just Gwich’in; name background: Gwich’in - "one who dwells" or "resident of [a region]", most northern group of Native Americans / First Nations peoples, lived mostly above the Arctic Circle in the Yukon Flats, along the Yukon, Porcupine, Chandalar, Peel, Mackenzie and Arctic Red rivers in northern Yukon and Northwest-Territories as well into northeast Alaska)

3. Hän or Han (Jëjee, Hwëch'in / Han Hwech’in - "People of the River, i.e. Yukon River", but often by the affiliation of their regional band / group as Hwëch'in - "one who dwells" or "resident of [a region]"; name background: the name Hän or Han is a shortening of their own name as Hwëch'in / Han Hwech’in, and of the Gwich’in word Hangʷičʼin for the Hän, both literally meaning "People of the River, i.e. the Yukon River", lived along the Upper Yukon River, Klondike River, Bonanza Creek and Sixtymile River straddling what is now the Alaska-Yukon Territory border - often mistaken for another Gwich'in band)

4. Holikachuk or Innoko (Dina, often combined with the Koyukon, although they are culturally closest to the Deg Hit'an)

5. Deg Hit'an or Ingalik (Dena or Dina, today Deg Hit'an - ″Locals″ or ″Local People″)

6. Upper Kuskokwim or Kolchan / Goltsan (Dina'ena[13], today: Dichinanek' Hwt'ana or Digenegh xit'an- ″Timber River people″)

Tanana Athabaskans

7. Tanana / Lower Tanana and / or Middle Tanana (Dena or Kokht'ana)
8. Tanacross or Tanana Crossing (Dendeh / Dendeey or Koxt'een / Koxt'en iin)[14]
9. Upper Tanana (Dineh or Koht'iin)

10. Dena'ina or Tanaina (Dena'ina, but often by the affiliation of their regional band / group as Ht’ana - "one who dwells" or "resident of [a region]";are the only Northern Athabascan group to live on saltwater and this allowed them to have the most sedentary lifestyle of all Northern Athabascans)

11. Ahtna or Copper River Athabasken (Atna Hwt'aene - ″People along the 'Atna' River, i.e. Copper River″, auch meist jedoch Koht'aene [kote-an-eh] / Hwt'aene - „Bewohner einer Gegend“ oder „Volk entlang, von, vom ...“, um durch eine Ortsangabe die Zugehörigkeit zu einer regionalen Band/Gruppe zu bestimmen; Namensherkunft: anglicisation of the autonym of one of the four regional Ahtna bands as Atna Hwt'aene / Atnahwt'aene ("People on the 'Atna' River", variants: Ahtna, Ahtena, Atnatana, Ahtnakotana, Ahtna-Khotana or Ahtna-Kohtaeneda, their tribal territory (Atna Nenn') was along the Copper River (Atna River) - which was known to them simply as 'Atna' tuu, meaning "river of the Ahtnas" - and its tributaries in southeast Alaska)

  • Lower (Copper River) Ahtna or Atna Hwt'aene / Atnahwt'aene (″People along the 'Atna' River, i.e. Copper River″, lived at the mouth of the ('Atna') Copper Rivers into the Gulf of Alaska)
  • Central Ahtna, Middle Ahtna or Dan'ehwt'aene
  • Western Ahtna or Tsaay Hwt'aene / Dze Ta Hwt'aene (″People in the midst of the mountains, i.e. Nutzotin Mountains″, sometimes also called Hwtsaay Hwt'aene / Hwtsaay hwt'aene - ″Small Tree People, Small Timber People″)[15]
  • Upper (Copper River) Ahtna or Tatl'a Hwt'aene / Tatl'ahwt'aene (″People of the headwaters [of the ('Atna') Copper River]″)

The Gwich'in or Kutchin are generally grouped within the Alaskan Athabascans or Alaska Dene (although resident both in Alaska and the Yukon and Northwest Territory), because the Gwich’in language shares the ″Han-Kutchin subdivision″ with the Hän language or Hän (Häɬ goɬan) / Hänkutchin of the Hän as one of the subgroups of the Northern Athabaskan languages.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ANKN: Athabascans of Interior Alaska / Alaskan Athabascans
  2. ^ Athabascans of Interior Alaska : Appendix A : Brief Description of Alaskan Athabascan Culture
  3. ^ Appendix E: Race Code List
  4. ^ "South Dakota Department of Education, Race/Ethnicity Guidance, Race Identification" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-23. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  5. ^ Athabascan Conference + Exhibition : Seven branches of Athabascan
  6. ^ Alaska's Heritage: Alaskan Athabaskans
  7. ^ Susan W. Fair (2006). Alaska Native Art: Tradition, Innovation, Continuity
  8. ^ William Simeone, A History of Alaskan Athapaskans, 1982, Alaska Historical Commission
  9. ^ Дзенискевич Г. И. Атапаски Аляски. — Л.: «Наука», Ленинградское отд., 1987
  10. ^ U.S. Government Printing Office (1900), Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey to the Secretary of the Interior
  11. ^ Celebrating Alaska Natives and Alaskan Indian Communities : Athabascan Indians
  13. ^ Upper Kuskokwim (Dinak'i) dictionary
  14. ^ The Phonology and Morphology of the Tanacross Athabaskan Language
  15. ^ "Copper River Native Places - A report on culturally important places to Alaska Native tribes in Southcentral Alaska" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-13. Retrieved 2017-09-06.