Alutiiq and Aleut/Unangan History and Culture
Aleut House diorama
Aleut houses were built by first digging a long pit into the ground. A rounded framework of driftwood logs or whalebone was then set into the ground, covered with grass mats and then sod. A notched log served as a ladder leading to a square opening in the roof, the customary entrance to the dwelling. Several related families usually lived in one of these dwellings, using grass mats to partition off compartments along the walls for individual families. The interiors were dark and although not cold, probably cool and damp. In good weather people apparently gathered on the roof to talk and do small chores.
Several such dwellings made up a village. Villages were often established in protected coves, and racks were built near the houses for the men’s baidarkas and possibly for women to dry the grass they used to make mats and baskets.
The woman in the diorama is wearing a copy of a traditional Aleut woman’s dress. This long garment extended to her ankles, and was either of sea otter fur (worn fur side in) or of bird feather pelts. If worn fur side in, as this particular garment was, the outer or skin side was often carefully decorated with embroidery and by tinting it with ocher to produce a red color.
The woman holds a small gut bag. Nest to her is a bag in which she has some of sewing gear. Women had to prepare skin and gut for use in clothing, make and repair clothing. This was an important task.