What is Unangax̂ (oo – nung – ukh)? Unangax̂ is the plural form of Unangan: the original name of the people indigenous to the Aleutian chain of Alaska. You may have heard the Unangax̂ be referred to as Aleut. This is because in the 1700s, Russian Explorers arrived to this region of Alaska and called it the Aleutian Islands- which is where the Aleut name stems from. However, the majority of the indigenous here today prefer to identify with their original and self-given name, Unangan- which roughly translates to “Seasider.”
This translation comes as no surprise considering that the Unangax̂ people have relied on natural resources from the Sea as their livelihood for centuries past. The Unangax̂ are a strong indigenous people who have endured many hardships in their recent history. In addition to colonial intrusions, these islands were also heavily affected by the events of World War II. Many people do not know that Unalaska/Dutch Harbor was bombed by the Japanese in 1942, and nearly 900 natives from several communities in the region were then forcibly removed from their homes into internment camps in Southeast Alaska by the United States government. Abandoned WWII ruins litter these islands and serve as a constant reminder of their past. However, when you come to visit the Aleutians you will see for yourself that the resilient Unangax̂ continue to thrive and grow stronger despite their history.
Culture remains an important part of daily life, and these practices include the art of traditional dance, storytelling, basket weaving and bentwood hat making. The intricacies to these arts are continuously passed down to the youth every summer through culture camps. Here, children are also able to practice their native tongue of Unangam Tunuu and participate in subsistence fishing and traditional foods lessons instructed by skilled mentors. When you take a trip with us to the Aleutian Islands, we will contribute a portion of our proceeds to support the continued practices of Aleutian culture camps.