Alaskan Athabaskans

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Alaskan Athabascans
Clarence Alexander at 2004 ILA.jpg
Former Gwich’in Grand Chief Clarence Alexander
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Northern Athabaskan languages, American English (Alaskan variant), Russian (historically and spoken by some)
Shamanism (largely ex), Christianity

The Alaskan Athabascans,[2][3][4][5] Alaskan Athabascans,[6][7] Alaskan Athapascans[8] or Dena[9] (Russian: атабаски Аляски, атапаски Аляски)[10] are Alaska Native peoples of the Athabaskan-speaking ethnolinguistic group. They are the original inhabitants of the interior of Alaska.

In Alaska, where they are the oldest, there are eleven groups identified by the languages they speak. These are the Dena’ina or Tanaina (Ht’ana), Ahtna or Copper River Athabascan (Hwt’aene), Deg Hit’an or Ingalik (Hitʼan), Holikachuk (Hitʼan), Koyukon (Hut’aane), Upper Kuskokwim or Kolchan (Hwt’ana), Tanana or Lower Tanana (Kokht’ana), Tanacross or Tanana Crossing (Koxt’een), Upper Tanana (Kohtʼiin), Gwich'in or Kutchin (Gwich’in), and Hän (Hwëch’in). 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]

Formerly they identified as a people by the word Tinneh (nowadays Dena; cf. Dene for Canadian Athabaskans). Taken from their own language, it means simply "men" or "people".[12]

Life and culture[edit]

The Athabascan people hold potlatches which have religious, social and economic significance."[8]

Dogs were their only domesticated animal, but were and are an integral element in their culture for the Athabascan population in North America.[13]

Notable Alaskan Athabascans[edit]

Two men standing, one with a rifle
1847 illustration of Gwich'in hunters
  • George Attla (1933 – 2015) was a champion sprint dog musher.
  • Ricko DeWilde was profiled in the National Geographic documentary television series Life Below Zero.
  • Emil Notti, an American engineer, indigenous activist and democratic politician. Key in the development of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
  • Quinn Christopherson is an American singer-songwriter. He won the 2019 Tiny Desk Contest with his entry "Erase Me," a song exploring his experience coming out as a transgender man.
  • Herbert Alex. Alex was Sgt. 1st Class, the Alaska Army National Guard’s first aviation mechanic, and a pillar in the Alaska Native community.
  • John Sackett served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971 and in the Alaska Senate from 1973 to 1987.
  • Effie Kokrine (1919 - 2001,[14] also known as "Grandma Effie"), native arts educator in the Fairbanks area elementary schools; also recipient of a Women of Distinction award from the Fairbanks Girl Scouts in 1997.[15]
  • Michael J. Stickman, First Chief of the Nuwato Tribal Council
  • Dr. Siobhan Wescott, physician and public health advocate; she has served as Director of the American Indian Health Program and is a Professor of American Indian Health at the University of Nebraska.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Athabascans of Interior Alaska".
  2. ^ "Athabascans of Interior Alaska".
  3. ^ "Appendix E: Race Code List" (PDF).
  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".
  6. ^ "Alaska's Heritage: Alaskan Athabascans". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  7. ^ Susan W. Fair (2006). Alaska Native Art: Tradition, Innovation, Continuity
  8. ^ a b William Simeone, A History of Alaskan Athapaskans, 1982, Alaska Historical Commission
  9. ^ "------------- Dena Languages -----------". anlorg.
  10. ^ Дзенискевич Г. И. Атапаски Аляски. — Л.: «Наука», Ленинградское отд., 1987
  11. ^ "athabascan indians".
  12. ^ U.S. Government Printing Office (1900), Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey to the Secretary of the Interior
  13. ^ Derr, Mark (2004). A dogs history of America. North Point Press. p. 12
  14. ^ "Native Educator Effie Kokrine Dies". Peninsula Clarion. 4 November 2001. Archived from the original on 22 April 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Women of Distinction | Fairbanks Girl Scouts". Retrieved 2021-03-13.