The Kutchin Nomads, Arctic Tribes Illustration

Far North & Arctic
Native Americans

Athapascans & Kutchin
in Olden Times

Hunters and Gatherers: The Athapascan were hunters and gatherers. The Kutchin were probably the most warlike of the Athapascans, but their daily life was pretty typical.

Clothing: They wore clothes similar to the Eskimos. The men's clothes had a pointed tail in the front and back so they could sit on the ice comfortably. Women's clothes were decorated with painted quills. The Ojibwa probably learned their quill making technique from the Athapascan. The men tattooed their bodies. They added a stripe for each person they killed in battle.

Homes: In winter, the Kutchin lived in pole houses. Some were covered inside with hides for additional warmth. The rest of the year, they traveled in search of food. They dragged portable homes with them, which were poles covered with hides.

Women: A woman's life was very hard. The Kutchin women pulled the sleds. When a new camp was set up, the men arrived first as they could move more rapidly. Once the women arrived, the women set up the tents and cooked food, dragged goods around. The men did nothing. During a hunt, the women had to follow the men, so they could pick up the kill and drag it back to camp. They cleaned the hide, dried the food, and made the clothing. A woman's life was so hard that women sometimes killed their infant daughters to spare them a woman's life.

Government: Chiefs had little authority. Any young man could get up in a council meeting and speak out without fear. The power was held by the shaman.

War Tricks: Before a war party set out, they danced a jig and wore masks. The Kutchin had a war technique that worked very well for them. As they were traveling, they killed everything they saw, every animal, any person. When they arrived at a neighboring tribe's home, they pretended to be friendly. The minute the tribe was off guard, they killed everyone - men, women, and children.

Games: Life was not all war and revenge and hunting for food. These early people also loved singing, dancing, and story telling. They played many games. One was tug-of-war, women against men. Another was a trampoline jumping game. They stretched a very small fur between four trees and used it as a springboard to jump higher and higher until finally someone fell, much to the hearty amusement of all the onlookers.

Wrestling: Wrestling was their favorite sport. The tribal wrestling was a big deal. It was a contest. Young boys were paired off, two by two. The winner of each of those matches went on to wrestle another winner; and so it continued until one winner was found.

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