alaska natives, villages and alaskan indian communities Alaskan natives in Alaska number about 119,241 (as of the 2000 census). There are 229 federally recognized Alaskan villages and five unrecognized Tlingit alaskan indian tribes. Generally, the aboriginal people of Alaska don't mind being called Eskimos or Indians, but there are some individuals who don't like to be called native americans or eskimo. They prefer the terms alaskan natives or alaska indian communities or inuits, etc. It is important to understand the diversity of native Alaskan tribes which speak 20 different languages, belong to five geographic areas, are organized under thirteen Alaska Native Regional Corporations and have eleven different cultures. Alaskan natives make up 20% of the population of the state of Alaska.
Are Eskimos and Inuit the same people?
I answered a letter a while ago, from someone at a museum in Alaska. They wanted to know why Inuit (which I am of) dislike being called "Eskimos." After all, many Alaskans don't mind being called Eskimos, and even seem to dislike the term "Inuit" when southerners apply it them, however well-intentioned. I am not surprised by the confusion.
Alaskan Native Cultures
There are three types of Alaskan Natives with different cultural and linquistic history. They are Indian, Eskimo and Aleut. These are further defined by eleven distinct cultures.
Eskimo / Esquimaux
Eskimo is the term used when speaking of Inupiaq and Yupik people collectively or to mean all Inuit and Yupik people of the world.
Unangan (Aleut) Heritage
Several thousand years ago, before European explorers discovered the shores of the Aleutian Islands, they were inhabited by the “Unangas” (Aleut people).
Facts about Alaskan natives
November is Alaska Native Heritage Month.
Life expectancy at birth for Alaska Natives is 69.4 years compared to 76.7 years for all races in the U.S and 74.7 years for all Alaskans.
The Alaska Native suicide mortality rate overall is 4.2 times the rate for all races in the U.S., and almost twice that of all Alaskans. The suicide attempt rate for Alaska Native youths ages 10 - 14, is six times higher for Alaskan Native males and three times higher for Alaskan Native females in that age group. In the 15 - 19 age group, the alaskan native male rate is 5.6 times higher, and female alaskan native rates are four times that of Alaskan females in the same age group.
Forty-two percent of Alaska Native adults are current smokers, with rates as high as 60% in some villages, compared to the US national rate of 24% smokers.
The fertility rate and live birth rates for Alaska Native women, 15 to 44 years of age is nearly double that of the combined rate of all races in the U.S.
The percentage of high birthweight babies (8 pounds 14 ounces or more) is 18.7% for Alaskan Natives compared to 10.3% for all races in the U.S.
26.5% of Alaskan Native infant deaths are from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) compared to 11.5% for all races in the U.S. The neonatal mortality rate for Alaskan Native mothers is 4.2 compared to 4.8 for all U.S. mothers. The postneonatal mortality rate for Alaskan Natives (4.5) is nearly twice that of all U.S. races (2.4).
The FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) prevalence rate among Alaska Natives is three and a half times that for all Alaskans and at least seven times the high end of the national rate of .1 to .7% for the US as a whole. The percentage of Alaskan Native mothers who drank during pregnancy was 12.3% compared to 1.5% for all races in the U.S.
Slightly less than half of Alaskan Natives live in rural areas. Most rural settlements are off the road network and are comprised of fewer than 500 people, with some villages as few as 50.
Every 100 Alaska Native persons of working-age must support 87.2 additional persons compared to 52.1 persons for Alaska Whites. 25.7 percent of the Alaska Native population earns below the US poverty level standard, compared to 17.8 percent for all races in the U.S. and 9.8% for all Alaskans.
The overall unemployment rate for Alaska Native men is 27.3% and 16% for Alaska Native women. Due to the lack of jobs in rural areas, unemployment rates in villages are staggering. In one out of every eight villages, unemployment among Native men is in excess of 50%. In 1/3 of all Native villages, male unemployment rates (32%) nearly quadruple statewide average unemployment rates.
In many rural areas, a subsistence lifestyle is still practiced. Subsistence refers to the hunting, fishing, and gathering activities which traditionally constituted the economic base of life for Alaska's Native people. Subsistence resources have great nutritional, economical, cultural, and spiritual importance in the lives of rural Alaskan Native people, many of whom gather up to 1/3 of their subsistence needs from wild animals, fish, marine life, and plants.
60% of the Alaskan Native subsistence harvest is made up of fish, 20% land mammals, 14% marine mammals, and birds, shellfish, plants, and berries make up the remaining 6% of the rural harvest of wild food. A 1998 report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that commercial fisheries take roughly 2 billion pounds, or nearly 97% of the total weight of fish and wildlife harvested in Alaska. Sport fishing and hunting account for 1% of the total harvest. Rural subsistence, including resources taken by non-natives who also live off the land, accounts for 45 million pounds, or just 2.2% of the total harvest of edible natural resources in Alaska each year.