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1. Gender Roles

2. Marriage



1. Unangan

2. Aleut

3. Koniag Alutiiq

4. Central Yup'ik

5. Inupiat

6. Athabaskan

7. Tlingit and Haida


1. Shaman Battle


1. Menstrual Period

2. Slaves




1. Tattoos


1. Hunter's Wife













Alaska's indigenous people are jointly called Alaskan Natives and could be called Alaskan Indians or American Indians. There are similarities to the Apache and Navajo Indians. Alaskan Indians are more closely related genetically to other American Indians than they are to Alaskan Eskimos. This land is the deeply-revered home for Native people.


Matrilineal (traced through the female) descent and inheritance characterized Aleut kinship patterns. A fundamental Athabaskan trait based kinship on matrilineal descent; matrilineal halves were know as Raven and Seagull.

Patrilineal-related crews conducted rituals prior to whaling and walrus hunting and called on shamans for assistance. Gambling was a favorite pastime of many Native men.

The captain was a substantial figure, responsible for many activities including the whale hunt, the ceremonies, festivals, religious rituals and trading expeditions. In Inupiat belief and practice, husband and wife both must carry out their spiritual and secular responsibilities so the captain was worthy to receive a whale.

Preferential female infanticide was practiced, but due to the many accidental deaths suffered by males, the number of adult men and women tended to be fairly balanced.

Individuals were born into these totemic corporate groups which traced their origins from mythical or legendary incidents. The clans were typically named after an animal or mythical being. For example, the Kiksadi, a important clan among the Sitka people, claimed the frog as its major symbol or crest. Classes are usually divided into the nobles or aristocracy, the commoners and the slaves.

Gender Roles

Among the Alutiiq, gender roles for men as women and women as men were both recognized. Despite the cultural emphasis on male hardiness and self-reliance, there was a recognized role in Unangan society for the male transvestite who dressed and worked as a woman. They were often considered experts in healing.


Wealthier males occasionally had several wives and, among the Gwich'in, might use younger males to sire heirs by their younger wives. These long-standing relationships could include short-term exchanges of spouses as part of the generosity between the two families. Among the Gwich'in, high-status women occasionally had unions to brothers (woman married to several men).

An individual was a member of one side, Raven and Eagle or Wolf, and had to obtain a marriage partner from the opposite side; to marry or have sexual relations with a member of one's own side was considered incestuous. Marriages, particularly among the nobles, were arranged by the mother and her brother for the woman's children.


The first foreign religion introduced into Alaska was Russian Orthodox. Alaska has been subjected to catholic religious influence. In 1882, Jackson convened a meeting of Christian missionaries from various sects interested in proselytizing in Alaska and through mutual agreement, different sects were assigned to different areas of Alaska.



Although little is known of the Unangan belief system, they appear to have conceived of a creator deity related to the sun who was instrumental in hunting success and the reincarnation of souls. Small images of the creator, were carved from ivory and hung from the ceiling beams. The creator, however, had little impact on everyday life which was instead influenced by two classes of spirits, good and evil. Animals also had spirits. The most important ones were those of the whale and sea otter. The Unangan believed in the reincarnation of souls which migrated between the earth, a world below and a world above.


Aleut men wore a variety of amulets and charms that were thought to provide special powers from the animal spirits to enhance success in hunting.

Koniag Alutiiq

Koniag Alutiiq cosmology was elaborate consisting of origin accounts involving a primeval sun-man, accounts of spiritual forces, and numerous oral texts about how the universe functioned and how humans were supposed to behave. Both good and evil spirits existed.

Central Yup'ik

Among the Central Yup'ik was a universal cosmic presence who coordinated existence and established a basic ordering framework. The first of these is that all living beings have a spiritual essence that is sentient and volitional and human beings must maintain respectful relations with the animal and organisms on which they depend. The second principle is that of reincarnation or cosmological cycling of the spiritual essence, the person of life. Powerful spiritual beings controlled the recycling of different animal, fish and bird forms and determined where they would go to give themselves to worthy people.


The Inupiat belief system appears to have been based on the principle of reincarnation and the recycling of spirit forms from one life to the next. This was true of both the human and animal worlds. Names of those who had recently died would be given to newborn infants. Animal spirits were seen as critical for only if they were released could the animal be regenerated and return for future human harvest. Consequently a great number of special behaviors were accorded various animals including offering marine mammals a drink of freshwater, cutting the throats or skull to release the spirit, and taking care to make maximum use of the products. Shamans had a special place in Inupiat society as curers, and forecasters of weather and future events. Healers (usually women) expert in the medicinal uses of plants also helped maintain Inupiat health.


A critical set of beliefs revolved around the similarities between men and animals in the distant past. Both have spirits and in the past they communicated directly with each other. These ancient relationships had been transformed by the acts and antics of Raven, a culture hero and trickster who constantly disrupted the moral order by deception. The legend cycle, told in stories to Athabaskan children, is composed of tales concerning the activities of Raven, along with other mythical beings which exemplify concepts of right and wrong in Athabaskan culture.

Despite the transformations, important relationships between the spirits of men and animals continue. Humans must remain respectful through ritual practices, such as sexual abstinence and taboos, in order to remain in the good graces of the animal spirits. Some individuals might obtain power through a special relationship with the spirit of an animal species. Malevolent spirits must not be offended. Among the Pacific Athabaskans, the shaman was an important intermediary with the spirits. Shamans acted as both magician and medical practitioner and could have either a good or bad reputation. Curing and predicting future events such as weather and hunting success were important activities of the shaman. Among the upland groups, shamans utilized scapulimancy, a method of divining the location of game when hunting success was limited.

Tlingit and Haida

The belief system of both the Tlingit and Haida were linked to the Raven, a supernatural trickster through whose activities most of the universe's features came to be. Other animals were also important as actors in Tlingit and Haida myths and legends; particularly important were bears, the Thunderbird and a variety of other mythical beings and spirits whose acts influenced human affairs. Tlingits undertook purification and cleansing by immersion in freshwater to acquire personal guardian spirits to assist them in daily life. Both cultures had a strong belief in reincarnation which was identified by dreams and physical or behavioral similarities of new born children to some recently deceased person. The shaman was a powerful ritualist in both societies who acquired spiritual forces through fasting, abstinence and retreat to nature to assist in curing, foretelling future events, and of major importance, identifying witches who were damaging other persons. Shamans, unlike other Tlingits who were cremated following death, were buried in boxes, and accompanied by their spiritual materials, taken to uninhabited forest areas at a distance from villages and camps. Their remains were never bothered out of respect and fear.


Among the Alutiiq, knowledge specialists were present whose expertise covered different domains such as medicinal healing, divination, marshaling spiritual forces, and maintaining social order. Apparently unique among Alaska Natives, Koniag Alutiiq communities had persons known as wise men (revered elders who were the ritual leaders of the winter masked ceremonials. As bearers of the cosmological truths, they were capable of communicating with the most powerful spirits as well as with the spirits of the animals. For Koniag Alutiiq, the influence and capabilities were viewed as separate from, superior to and more important than the shamans.

Kalaik, both men and women, had spiritual assistants whose powers they called upon to predict the outcome of hunts, battles and travels, and to discern, and endeavor to alter weather, prevent calamities, and heal certain kinds of sickness. Some sources suggest that certain shamans obtained powers form evil spirits and that bad shamans used their powers to bring harm to humans. Shamanic powers were activated spiritually through unusual clothing, facial painting, special objects, rattles, whistles, song, dance, gestures, and formulaic verbalizations. Another category of knowledge specialist was the medicinal curer who utilized a diverse array of more physically-based techniques in their healing practices and passed their knowledge on to descendants. Included in the repertoires of these healers were herbs for beverages, foods and poultices, acupuncture, blood letting, surgical procedures and bone setting.

Shaman Battle

Shamans were thought to travel great distances to see events in other communities and do battle with other shamans. A challenger traveled to the spiritually-significant Augustine Island, an active volcano located in lower Cook Inlet, where he found Abshala. On the island, Abshala was ultimately victorious as his spectacular display of fiery rockets overwhelmed the rival, forcing him to admit defeat and depart.


Fathers, supported by their kinsmen, were responsible for hosting the feast and distributing food and gifts to guests who were invited to witness the ceremonial transformation of a young man after a successful sea lion or bear hunt. Central to the religious practices of the Alutiiq were the masked winter dances and ritual performances conducted. A primary focus of these activities was to thank and show respect to spirits controlling the availability and abundance of game. Presentations included dramatic appearances and disappearances from the smoke hole in the ceiling. Through the drum, the heartbeat of the spirit was felt and it joined the heartbeats of all participants in the ceremonies through song and dance. New clothes and equipment were brought out because this was a festival of renewal, or insuring the continuation of life. Due to a combination of grieving and fear of the corpse, most were cremated but shamans would be interred in coffins away from the community.

Menstrual Period

A number of taboos were imposed and she was expected to stay away from contact with men and their hunting gear for fear of polluting it from the ritual associated with a young woman's first menstruation. During the seclusion, she received focused training on her physical transformation, on the behavioral taboos and requirements during her menstrual period.


Slaves were fairly numerous and were important in both trade and providing labor. They were also important at potlaches when they might be either killed or released. The Koniag also held a substantial number of slaves, who consisted primarily of women and young people captured in raids or battles. Slavery was practiced among a number of Athabaskan groups, but was almost incidental, typically consisting of women or children captured in raids from other groups.


Wooden masks were used in some dances to invoke the presence of powerful spirits. The exquisite quality and rarity of such lamps suggest they may have been used only in rituals. The Koniag used small carved wooden dolls for several purposes. These may have been used in ceremonial performances or attached to dance masks.

Among the Koniag and lower Kenai Peninsula Alutiiq, dances to mollify evil spirits were a part of the ceremonies. Alutiq masks were the presence and embodiment of spiritual forces. One of the most important practices was the bringing out of elaborate masks that embodied the spirit who was honored by such representation.

The Yupiit cosmos was inhabited by many spirits including those of the deceased. Spirit poles were erected by graves to keep the spirits of the dead who wished to be reborn from disrupting the world of the living.

Masks representing animal and other spirits were an important part of religious ceremonies and dances among the Central Yupiit. Since it was believed that the seal spirits would return at that time to the vicinity to witness the ceremony, noise was kept at a minimum in order not to disturb the seal spirits. The shaman had a special role for he was to leave the festival and travel to the home of the seals to see if they had been satisfied with the human efforts.


The Chugach paintings in Prince William Sound are believed to be ritual art forms made by whalers to call up powerful spiritual assistance for their hunting efforts. Some of the smaller objects include bear's heads and an extraordinary figurine that depicts a human to bird transformation. Another type of figure is the shaman's doll. Prior to the beginning of the masked ceremonies, the shaman brought out the doll and visited each household where the heads placed marks on the doll indicating what they hoped the spirits would provide for them during the upcoming season.


Nose pins were worn by men and women. Flat circular discs made of wood or ivory were inserted into slits in the area between the lower lip and the chin. Nunivak men wore ivory labrets through pierced holes below both ends of the lower lip.


Simple tattoos, usually from short straight lines, were inscribed on the hands and faces. Three parallel straight tattoo lines down the lower lip were common among women. Some men and women also had relatively limited tattoos, usually single lines encircling the face or crossing the cheeks. Among the Koniag these were utilized by shamans and others who participated in ritual ceremonies.


A very elaborate type of visored headgear was worn by the Koniag whalers that was a symbolic component of their ritualized hunting transformation into a type of killer whale. Whalers were ritual and knowledge specialists who were viewed with both awe and horror by their fellow Alutiiq. Koniag whalers left their villages and went to solitary retreats in caves or secluded coves in April, perhaps a month prior to the arrival of whales, to ritually transform themselves. They had to activate their amulets or talismans through ritual procedures to access their power.

Perhaps the most unique practice of the Koniag whaler was the use of rendered human fat in their hunting. Then he would proceed into the bay and after vocally calling on his spiritual supporters and the sun for assistance, would go and harpoon the whale. Once the whale was struck, the whaler would use song and motion to tow the whale ashore. At the conclusion of the whaling season, the whaler had to ritually cleanse and decommission himself. Only by transforming himself back to his other human form would he be able to return to the village and live. Whalers had to go through a similar set of ritual preparations and also were said to use human fat to keep struck whales in the bays.

Unangan whaling was a highly ritualized activity for which men and their wives prepared themselves by abstinence and other behaviors to make themselves worthy. The stone harpoon heads were coated with a magical poison concocted from the aconite plant. During this time, the hunter who struck the whale secluded himself in his house and pretended to be ill hoping that the whale likewise would become sick and die.

Hunter's Wife

Throughout these preparations and practices, the whaler's wife, who had remained behind in the village, had a strict set of behaviors she was to follow including not leaving the house, limiting her movements and keeping her voice down.

Wives observed many taboos and rituals to assist their husbands' hunting. These included a broad range of activities such as cutting skins at certain times, eating certain foods or looking in certain directions. It was thought that if those taboos were broken, then bad luck would befall the husband's hunting efforts.


Halibut hooks were carved with representations of powerful spirits called upon by the fishermen to assist their efforts. A strong spirit was needed to overcome the strength of the halibut. Special clubs were made for dispatching the powerful halibut when brought to the surface where they were ceremoniously greeted and thanked. ANCSA also explicitly extinguished all aboriginal hunting and fishing rights.


The Koniag were reported by Russian sources to have traditionally tortured some male captives prior to killing them. The Koyukon, Gwich'in and Dena'ina were noted for warfare. Warfare was a common practice among both Tlingit and Haida. Feuding, the perpetuation of multi-generation hostilities between two clan groups, was also well known.

A major mechanism used to restore balance was the Deer ceremony. This was a sacred ritual involving, among several elements, the exchange of high raking persons from the two clans; their role was to demonstrate the dampening of anger and rise of peaceful feelings.

Within the local group, tensions between men could be controlled through the song duel. In this event, a man who felt wronged by another would challenge him to an exchange of belittling songs.


Steaming provided a combination of cleansing, spiritual purification, relaxation and socializing for the people. Finally, the building became the ceremonial structure during the winter festivities, religious rituals and ceremonies.


Special thanks were given to the tree prior to felling and each morning the craftsman prayed that his efforts would be well received.


Mortuary posts were erected in memory of a deceased clan head often having a niche carved in the back for placement of ashes of the deceased. Chief Skowl, a Kaigani Haida, erected a pole with carved images of Russian Orthodox priests to memorialize his opposition to Christian beliefs.


The special importance of death and the spirit of the deceased is apparent in the distinctive mummification practices of the Unangan. Mummification was practiced to preserve the spiritual power which resides in each person.

These powers could be solicited at a later time by emboldened Unangan hunters who visited the caves and took a bit of flesh from one of the mummies, hoping it would bring assistance in whaling. But this was dangerous and those who sought such power might be subject to insanity, severe sickness, and early death.


In the aftermath, Russians began asserting total control over Koniag life, acquiring hostages and requiring males to hunt sea otter, often in distant waters. The Unangan were violently subjugated and decimated by disease. Russian Orthodox clerics tried to stop many abuses against the Unangan. The priests quickly became critics of the brutal Russian American Company practices toward indigenous people and argued for more humane policies. Russian methods had changed by this time with severe terms of trade and missionaries replacing outright subjugation. The legacy of the Russian period included smallpox and venereal disease that wreaked great havoc throughout the southern coastal regions.

In the 18th century, a violent group of men, driven by the ruthless quest for profits at any cost, descended on the Unangan, and their coming eventually resulted in the destruction of this unique system of cultural adaptations.

The outposts were manned by an extremely uncouth and rugged breed of soldier who apparently contributed substantially to the difficulties of the Native groups. One of the results of the military presence was teaching the Tlingit how to make homebrew.

Unfortunately, less savory traders brought liquor to Native villages, causing major problems. This contact brought new material goods, opportunities for trade and labor, and diseases which decimated the north coast in the 1880's. But no Alaska Native groups were able to escape the ravages of disease.


There are also significant problems associated with cultural changes such as alcoholism, drug addiction, heart disease and diabetes from altered diets, high rate of fetal alcohol syndrome, and serious abuse of women and children. Alaska Natives are also incarcerated at disproportionate levels and experience the highest suicide rate in the nation.


I forgive my ancestors, descendents and others, ask you to forgive me and I forgive myself for worshiping traditions and idols, alcohol and drug abuse, rape, sexual abuse and perversion, murder, self bitterness and hatred, occult, Americans and religions for suppressing religious and cultural practices, having to depend on welfare, reversing gender roles; multiple spouses; false religions and demonic beliefs, ceremonies, dances and rituals, having demonic paraphernalia, talismans, amulets, charms, spirit poles, objects, adornment and tattoos; sins of Alaskan Natives, Indians and Eskimos; Russians, traders, soldiers and others for mistreating my ancestors; those who brought alcoholism, drug addiction, heart disease, diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome, serious abuse of women and children, incarceration and suicide upon my people; being warlike, taking slaves, barbarism, torture and cruelty; following shamans and wise men; for worshiping and following demons; tribes, clans and groups for their demonic beliefs; preferential female infanticide; following myths and legends; transvestites, adultery, wife swapping and incest; seeking help from evil spirits; worshipping animals and their spirits; reincarnation and ancestor worship; acquiring guardian spirits; seeking forbidden knowledge; demonic healing and divination; worship of nature and earth; transformation into animals and animals into humans; fears of death and shamans; mistreating and killing slaves; cutting the flesh; using human fat and mummies; magic and witchcraft; superstition and taboos; insanity, severe sickness, early death and diseases of Alaska. I do this in THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST: LORD, MASTER AND SAVIOR. We come against spirits that have been renounced and legal rights taken away, and command that they come out with their families and works as their names are called.


1. Prayer

2. List of Demons for Basic Deliverance

Basic Deliverance





Rape, sexual abuse, sexual perversion, murder, self bitterness, self hatred, occultism, welfare dependence, reversing gender roles, multiple marriages, false religions, demonic traditions, beliefs, ceremonies, dances and rituals; slavery, having demonic paraphernalia, talismans, amulets, charms, spirit poles, objects, adornment and tattoos; Alaskan Native, Indian and Eskimo spirits; alcoholism, drug addiction, heart disease, diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome, abuse of women and children, incarceration and suicide; barbarism, torture and cruelty; following shamans and wise men; worshiping demons; tribe, clan and group spirits; female infanticide; following myths and legends; transvestites, adultery, wife swapping and incest; seeking help from evil spirits; reincarnation and ancestor worship; animism, guardian spirits; seeking forbidden knowledge; demonic healing and divination; worship of nature; transformation into animals and animals into humans; fears of death and shamans; cutting of the flesh; using human fat and mummies; magic and witchcraft; superstition and taboos; insanity, sickness, death and diseases of Alaska.


The Native People of Alaska (Traditional Living in a Northern Land) by Steve J. Langdon. This lesson was primarily taken from this book which is especially recommeded for study.

Native Peoples of Alaska (A Traveler's Guide To Land, Art, And Culture) by Jan Halliday with Patricia J. Petrivelli and The Alaska Native Heritage Center

The Wolf and the Raven (Totem Poles Of Southeastern Alaska) by Viola E. Garfield and Linn A. Forrest

Alaska Geographic (Russian America), (Inupiaq and Yupik People of Alaska) and (Native Cultures in Alaska) Russian America is especially recommended.

Alaska, An American Colony (A New History) by Stephen Haycox