Athabascan Indian History and Culture
The ancestors of the Athabascans probably migrated across the Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago. The earliest cultural remains in interior Alaska, as on the coast, are chipped stone blade complexes about 10,000 years old, with close relationships to Siberian materials. Athabascans appear to be the inheritors of this tradition, and to have evolved in Alaska, where they developed eleven distinct languages. Subsistence is based on hunting and fishing, supplemented by berries and edible plants. The major game animals are caribou and moose, and salmon is a primary food resource. Waterfowl are taken during spring and fall migrations.
Like the Eskimo, the Athabascans did not have any formal tribal organization. People lived in semi-nomadic family groups. Dwellings were usually temporary. Hemispherical winter houses were covered with moose or caribou hides. The birch tree provided not only house frames but snowshoes, utensils, and bark for canoes and containers. The Dena’ina of Cook Inlet had access to the sea, with its more abundant resources, and were more settled than other Athabascans.