Opinion: Alaska Natives thrived for thousands of years
"Homo sapiens have lived and prospered in Alaska for at least 10,000 years. Very resourceful people had advanced cultures and economies here when Europeans were huddling in caves drawing on the walls with burnt sticks.

It is easy for those of us from non-indigenous stock to assume that humans accomplished nothing of significance here before 1747. Most of our attitude is benign ignorance mixed with some cultural hubris. My purpose is to dispel some of the ignorance and engender more respect as we go forward.

Houses: Alaska's Arctic Native people evolved semi subterranean houses thousands of years before the hippies made earth houses popular in the 1960s. These houses had insulation several feet thick with "arctic entries" to keep out the wind and the vapor barrier on the inside. (Modern house designers did not figure this stuff out until the last 50 years.)

The homes of Alaska's northern people could be heated with a seal oil lamp. An elder and friend from Barrow told me, "Before the white man came, we lived underground and buried our dead above ground. Now we do it backwards and we haven't been warm since."

They figured out how to quickly construct movable dwellings when they went to fish camp or needed to follow the changing game migration patterns. In timber country, they learned how to split tree trunks into planks and build post and beam structures of great utility and beauty that shed the rain and leaked not."

Get the Story:
Alaska Sen. Fred Dyson: Alaska Natives thrived before the coming of the white man (The Anchorage Daily News 2/16)

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Opinion: Staying home in Alaska Native villages (2/16)
Opinion: Only Alaska Natives can preserve culture (02/02)