Tanaina (American Indians Ready Reference)
Tanaina Indians occupied the south-central region of Alaska. Five species of salmon, which made up the basis of Tanaina subsistence, inhabited local lakes. In summer, men used nets, spears, and basket traps to catch fish, which the women split and dried. In autumn, hunters used bows and arrows as well as harpoons to hunt harbor seals. Arrows tipped with copper, antler, or stone were used to kill caribou, sheep, moose, or goats. After entering the fur trade, the Tanaina trapped during the spring and fall.
The Tanaina traveled extensively on lakes and rivers, using birchbark canoes and mooseskin boats. Snowshoes aided winter travel. Tanaina Indians lived in large, multifamily dwellings that housed ten or more families. Both men and women wore long caribou-skin tunics with animal-skin shirts on top. Clothing was decorated with porcupine quills, shells, and ermine tails.
The Tanainan Indians placed great importance on the accumulation and display of wealth. The richest tribesman acted as headman, in charge of the health and welfare of others. He accumulated animal skins, manufactured items, wives, and slaves. Rich men were noted for their generosity. They gave lavish parties, called potlatches, which included large gift-giving ceremonies.
Tanainan religion revolved around shamans, men or women who acted as doctors and priests for the tribe. They were believed to receive their powers—sometimes unwillingly—through dreams and could...
(The entire section is 348 words.)
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