Alaska Native culture

Beliefs of Respecting the Land and Animals

Yukon River near Nulato. Photo by Bev Kokrine. Shared with permission.
Yukon River near Nulato. Photo by Bev Kokrine. Shared with permission.

Warren George shared some Koyukon Athabascan stories and beliefs on Facebook recently and gave me permission to share it on the Athabascan Woman Blog. Warren is originally from Nulato and now lives in Fairbanks.

Fireweed near Nulato. Photo by Bev Kokrine
Fireweed near Nulato. Photo by Bev Kokrine

I was always told to always respect the land and animals. There was always rules you had to follow when handling animals that you have killed. Little things like if you get blood on the floor try and wipe it up as soon as possible. Do not walk all over the blood.

Even before you went out hunting you had to show respect. You were not supposed to boast about how you are going to get an animal or how you were going to shoot it. Somehow the animal would know you were coming supposedly and you would not have any luck. Even after you bring an animal home if you had luck.

You had to follow certain rules. Like after eating bear meat you have to burn the bones of the bear. Or you can’t feed bear meat to a dog because it will make it mean. Or you can’t throw bear bones into the river because it will change the rivers channel and a sand bar would appear where you threw the bones. Or rules on what women can or can’t eat of a bear.

Our elders used to have to follow these rules year after year and this is how they passed this knowledge on from generation to generation. We can only speculate who made these rules (maybe it was between the animal spirit and man). Maybe it was just learned over time.

We are a generation that does not totally live off the land and we are chancing the possibility that we could lose parts of our traditions. It would be nice if our elders could somehow document it. There are a lot of rules about trapping and hunting out there.

-Warren George, Koyukon Athabascan

Related:  Athabascan Spiritual Beliefs About Hunting, Fishing and Gathering

Thank you Warren George for sharing some Koyukon Athabascan traditions and beliefs. I think it is important to share them with the younger generation. 

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11 thoughts on “Beliefs of Respecting the Land and Animals”

  1. I really enjoyed reading Warren George’s stories. I suppose every culture struggles to encourage their youths to practice their time honored traditions and preserve their language. The survival of a culture, it seems, is more in the hands of the children than the elders.

    And now I know why there are so many channels and sandbars in the Yukon!

  2. Many years ago when I first arrived in Alaska and had the opportunity to visit a number of remote villages, for a TV series I was working on, I too saw possibility that Alaska native culture and traditions could be lost. The production company I worked with did some work for Steven Spielberg in his ‘Survivors of Shoah Visual History’ capturing interviews on video of Jewish POW survivors. I suggested a similar project to people at UAF but nothing ever came from my talks even though I volunteered to work with them. Now many ‘elders’ have died and native history is vanishing a little more each day.

  3. Hi Angela, I was wondering if there was anyway I could use your pictures for my Alaska studies class project for my high school, I can include your name and this website if possible. If not I completely understand provacy issues. Thank you.

    1. Just sent you a message to say that you can use the photos. Please credit if possible. Best wishes on your assignment. Thank you.

  4. I realize that this is an older article but I am desperate for a story about how Alaska Natives respect the land. I’m writing a term paper about Alaska Native folklore and I have found every type of story except that. Any help would be appreciated, thank you!

  5. I really injoyed this it was a amazing article I am not Athabaskan but my friend is and I think it is crazy how amazing the history of Athabaskan. Right now I am righting an a assignment about Athabaskans.

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