This year was Shayla Shaishnikoff's first year as Camp Coordinator, and it couldn't have gone better!
The word Aleutian and the name “Aleut” was given to the native people by the first Russian explorers after their visit to the Aleutian Islands. Its meaning is unclear, so the present-day Natives of Unalaska and most of the Aleutian Islands prefer to call themselves Unangan, or the people of the passes. In the dialect of the eastern Aleutian Islands, the self-given term for this group of Native peoples is Unangan; in the western dialect, Unangas. Collectively, Unangax^ (with the “^” positioned directly over the “x”) is the proper term for the Native people of the Aleutian region. This group of hunters, whalers, and fishers are the original inhabitants of the Aleutian Island Chain, predating the Russian settlement of the region by thousands of years.
Resources from the sea provided livelihood for the Unangan people as they still do today for not only the Unangan, but also man residents of Unalaska. The harsh climate and unforgiving topography of the islands created a Unangan culture both rich in art and oral tradition that lives today, and continues to grow and flourish in the present generation of Unangan people. Unangan language, dance, and medical plants are being brought back and used as they always were over thousands of years. The Unangan people are widely known for their ultra-fine basketry, sleek and efficient wood-frame iqyan (skin boats made of wood frames and marine mammal skin) and mastery in handling these skin boats at sea. The Unangan people are also well known for their excellence in marine mammal hunting, superior skin sewing, embroidery techniques, and beautifully streamlined bentwood hats and visors.
Historically, The Aleutian Island of Unalaska has been home to the Unangan people who through oral history have documented an estimated 8,000 years of trade and travel. Recent archaeological investigation in the Unalaska area gives evidence that the Unangan people have inhabited the Aleutian Islands for at least 9,000 years. Artifacts found in the archaeological site at Margaret Bay in the Island of Unalaska were ancient at the time the Egyptians were building the first step pyramids. By 1745, the Unangan People had come into contact with Russian explorers, fur traders and hunters who came across the Bering Straits to the Aleutian Islands such as Unalaska. There were inevitable clashes between the Russians and the Native islanders, as the Russians' treatment of the Unangan was less favorable. At the time, the explores branded the Unangan/Unangas people with the name “Aleut”, a word of uncertain meaning and origin that has become a catchall name for various Alaska Native groups.