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Subsistence hunters looking for game

The Native people of Alaska, who may have hunted for more than 15,000 years, are among North America’s oldest group of hunters.

They hunt to survive, not for sport. This is known as subsistence hunting. They subsisted on fish, game, and some plants when available, and they became experts at understanding, finding, and stalking animals.

Native peoples relied on nature. As a result, their respect for animals and for the land was instilled into their religion and tradition.

Hunting skills were passed along to their children in tribal tradition, ensuring that each child could contribute to the family’s survival.

Hunting equipment included spears, bows and arrows, snares, and other traps. This equipment required great skill and dexterity for success.

The type of equipment used depended on the animal and its habitat.

  • Skin boats and spears were used to harvest seals, walruses, and whales in northern coastal areas.
  • Caribou corrals were constructed in interior areas; groups of caribou were herded into the pens and then killed, eliminating the need for individual stalking.
Subsistence hunters stalking game

Respect was shown to the animal by using all of its parts.

  • Caribou and mooseheads were used in feasts.
  • Antlers and bones were used to make hunting and other tools.
  • Hides and tendons were used to make clothing, string, rope, thread, and nets.
  • Internal organs, which are now known to be rich in vitamins and minerals, were considered delicacies.