Chugach Alaska Corporation from Nuuciq
By Nicholas Jordan
The Chugach People were traditionally nomadic who traveled safely over water and land for food, resources and celebrations.
1. How did they travel safely?
2. What did they traditionally use over water?
3. What landmarks/ environmental knowledge were used for travel?
"“It helps when you’re out there in rough water. It definitely works. I don’t know whose idea it was, but you would have to be very smart to figure that out. They traveled in very rough seas out here. I’ve been in a boat where forty- or fifty-foot boat couldn’t travel where our people traveled in their fifteen- to sixteen-foot kayaks. They landed on the rocks on the beach with no problem. The bigger boats would just sink.” -Nick Tanape (Nanwalek Alaska)
The Sugpiaq and Eyak of the Chugach Region traveled throughout the region and beyond with the use of the qayaq, anyaq, dugout canoe and various land based trails. In the Traditional Transportation kit, students will explore each mode of transportation, the designs and construction of the Chugach watercraft, traditional measurements used to construct the qayaq and paddle ensuring a perfect fit and will learn Sugt’stun/ Eyak vocabulary in regards to transportation. The watercraft, especially the qayaq is an important symbol of the Chugach Region’s interconnectedness to the ocean, land and animals.
For the Chugach watercraft lessons, students will learn about traditional body measurements, mold/carve a dugout canoe out of clay, soap or wood and build traditional models of paddles, qayaqs, and anyaqs. The Chugach qayaq was built from local wood, female sea lion skins, sinew and designed with the bifurcated bow. This hand carved, two part bow is extremely efficient by cutting through waves, adding buoyancy and dispersing the wave from cresting onto the paddler. This design was developed hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago, allowing the people of the Chugach Region to travel safely through the rugged and powerful oceans of region. The qayaq model used in these lessons was developed by the expert boat builder, Mitch Polling. Mitch lived in Chenega Bay as a child and developed a great passion for this style of qayaq.
The dugout canoe was specifically used by the Eyak people within Prince William Sound. The Eyak used large spruce trees or driftwood cedar to build these very large boats. The boats were carved out with stone tools and steamed open with heated salt water and volcanic rocks to widen the canoe.
Traditional travel in the Chugach Region was not always on the ocean. Many trails were established throughout the region, as the people used to portage qayaqs, hunt, gather, seek safety, and visit neighboring village settlements. Traditional land travel included making trail markers (tree blazing), and developing safe portage routes along the coastline. Land travel was necessary for hunting and gathering. Each community had established trails, as well as commonly used portage trails used by all. In this kit, we will learn about traditional trail markers and explore more common modern markers used for a local trail or around a school.
We hope you enjoy the Traditional Transportation kit.
Boat building at the Burke | Rebuilding Angyaaq
Boat building progress | Rebuilding Angyaaq
The last Baidarka with Mitch Poling
Building a dugout canoe
Traditions of Sugpiaq Carving
• Climate Change
• Food From the Sea
• Honoring Eyak
• Our Water
• Traditional Food & Recipes
• Traditional Housing & Shelters
• Traditional Place Names
• Traditional Transportation
• Traditional Weather Forecasting
• Additional Heritage Kits
1840 Bragaw Street, Suite 110
Anchorage, Alaska 99508-3463
ANA Grant Number S356A150066