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Aleut Identities

Aleut Identities: Tradition and Modernity in an Indigenous Fishery

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 337
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  • Book Info
    Aleut Identities
    Book Description:

    The first Aleut ethnography in over three decades, Aleut Identities provides a contemporary view of indigenous Alaskans and is the first major work to emphasize the importance of commercial labour and economies to maintain traditional means of survival. Examining the ways in which social relations and the status formation are affected by environmental concerns, government policies, and market forces, the author highlights how communities have responded to worldwide pressures. An informative work that challenges conventional notions of “traditional,” Aleut Identities demonstrates possible methods by which Indigenous communities can maintain and adapt their identity in the face of unrelenting change.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8407-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    Indigenous peoples of Alaska are often portrayed as timeless groups who hunt and fish primarily for their own consumption. The narrow definition of this practice, labelled “subsistence,” was designed largely by the Alaska state government and has been construed as the foundation of all Alaska Native cultures. Similar views of indigeneity have developed alongside the state’s regulatory bodies within the various Alaska Native communities as well as outside them. Anthropologists have likewise used the state’s language that cleanly separates subsistence and commercial economic practices, assuming that if money is involved, the practice gets pigeonholed as “Western” and non-traditional.

    Within the...

  7. 1 Nautical Nation: Indigenous Commercial Fishing in an Eastern Aleut Community
    (pp. 8-37)

    A casual visitor to King Cove, Alaska, might at first view it as more of a commercial centre than a rural Aleut village. Massive fishing boats, an industrial cannery, and the politics of gear wars dominate the outward visual and social surroundings. At closer examination, this setting is a backdrop for a reverse image that emerges with equal strength. On a calm evening, with fishing boats cruising in and out of the harbour, fishermen sipping their tenth cup of coffee while playing cribbage in the Harbor House, and meals of salmon shared with extended family and friends, the village seems...

  8. 2 Identity, Status, and the Structure of Traditional Aleutian Society
    (pp. 38-70)

    There is a growing sense among Eastern Aleuts that they must recapture their historical identity in order to combat contemporary political, economic, and social trends. This identity is emerging as a valuable position for debate in disputes over indigenous rights and commercial fisheries, and undoubtedly history will be revised by present circumstances. What might be defined as “traditional” is beginning to be used as an ideological resource in negotiating access to socioeconomic resources, but concepts of “the traditional” may be biased. Fienup-Riordan noted that for southwest Alaska, “current testimony by the Yupiit themselves on their history is also often biased...

  9. 3 Anthropology in the Pelagic Zone
    (pp. 71-128)

    The sociopolitical structures that developed alongside the commercial fishing industry as outlined in the previous chapter suggest that fishing, whether for home use or commercial sale, embodies both practice and knowledge. Chapters 3 and 4 explore the overall importance of the fishing franchise to King Cove and flesh out these structures, illuminating the development of fishing, the socioeconomic organization that is intimately tied to the practice of fishing, and introduce political structures and the current political climate surrounding the fisheries. Here I describe how the Aleut act out both subsistence and commercial economies, how the boundary between these two systems...

  10. 4 Limited Entry Systems in an Eastern Aleut Community
    (pp. 129-166)

    Traditional and modern avenues for status and prestige differ by degree and scale, but not substance. On the occasion of the above fisherman’s observation, my husband and I were talking to a group of fishermen in the Harbor House about oral histories and historical accounts of Aleut men going on raids as far away as Bristol Bay and Kodiak. This fishermen spontaneously added comments about how hard it had been to impress women “back then” and how one impressed women today. What else were these Aleuts doing on their raids? “Stealing women,” they frankly added. And one fisherman, whose wife...

  11. 5 Fish Wars, Identity, and Dehumanization
    (pp. 167-205)

    To this point, we have looked at local relations and how they are managed. This chapter turns to processes and relationships on and beyond King Cove. For Aleut fishermen, catching and eating seafood are the pinnacles of experience, and they are astonished that others would not feel the same way. The international political climate of the environmental movement has shifted against commercial fisheries as viable economies, and large-scale fisheries are often presented as environmentally irresponsible, non-sustaining piracy (e.g., Bours, Gianni, and Mather 2001;; Oceana 2003; Stump and Batker 1996). Since Aleuts define themselves as commercial fishermen and their social...

  12. 6 Disenfranchised Aleuts
    (pp. 206-240)

    “There was a hole in my heart watching the fleet go out without me,” said a seiner over coffee on the day of the first June opening. He had fished every year of his life, ending in that summer of 2002 when his stepson ran his boat with his own permit. In uttering these words, he appeared at once frustrated, angry, nostalgic, worried, and sad. Life as he knew it was changing. He was losing his foothold in fishing and his identity as a first-rate seiner as a result of low fish prices and short openers. Fishing is the only...

  13. 7 Identity in Context
    (pp. 241-250)

    Eastern Aleut villages at the turn of the twenty-first century are intimately intertwined with a volatile way of life on a volatile landscape. The Eastern Aleut not only maintain access to the resources upon which they have traditionally depended, but they have translated this access into a contemporary commercial economy through both active and passive conditions, creating an unusual cultural continuity and a social system dependent on participation in the industry.

    A great deal of arctic anthropology privileges subsistence over commercial aspects of life. At the same time, there can be an assumption that “progress” moves from subsistence to commercial...

  14. APPENDIX: Subsistence Tables
    (pp. 251-252)
  15. Abbreviations
    (pp. 253-256)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 257-268)
  17. References
    (pp. 269-304)
  18. Index
    (pp. 305-314)