Alaska Indian Tribes

Ahtena Indians. Signifying “Ice People” Also called:

Copper River Indians, popular name
Intsi Dindjich, Kutchin name, meaning “men of iron”
Ketschetnäer or Kolshina, Russian name meaning, “ice people”
Mednofski, Russian name meaning “cooper river people”
Yellowknife Indians, by Ross (quoted by Dall, 1877
Yullit, Ugalakmiut name

Connections.-The Ahtena belonged to the Athapascan linguistic stock. Physically they are said to bear a close resemblance to the Koyukukhotana (See Koyukan)
Location-In the basin of Cooper River


According to Allen (1887)

Miduusky, on Cooper River from its mouth to Tazlina River, and its branches.
Tatlazan, above the Tazlina.

According to Hoffman (ms,):

Ikherkhamut, near the mouth of Copper River.
Kangikhlukhmut, at the head of Copper River.
Kulchana, about headwaters of the Kuskokwim and extending probably into the valley of Copper River, but Osgood (1936) calls this “an erroneous generalized extension of the Ahtena people.”
Kulushut, on Copper River next above the Ikherkhamut.
Shukhtutakhlit, on Copper River next above the Kangikhlukhmut.
Vikhit, next below the Kulchana (?).


Alaganik, with Ugalakmiut near the mouth of Copper River.
Batzulnetas, near upper Copper River where the trail for Tanana River begins.
Liebigstag, on the left bank of Copper River, latitude 61°57′ N., longitude 145°45′ W.
Midauski, on the east bank of Copper River below the mouth of Tonsina Creek.
Skatalis, near the mouth of Copper River, probably the original Alaganik
Skolai, on Nizina River near the mouth of Chitistone River, latitude 61°21′ N., longitude 143°17′ W.
Slana, at the confluence of Slana and Copper Rivers.
Titlogat, probably of the Kulchana division. (But cf. Osgood above.)
Toral, on Copper River at the mouth of Chitina River.

History.-The mouth of Copper River was discovered by Nagaieff in 1781, but expeditions into the interior met with such consistent hostility on the part of the natives that for a long time they were a simple record of failure. The attempts of Samoylof in 1796, Lastóchkin in 1798, Klimoffsky in 1819, and Gregorief in 1844 all ended in the same way. Serebrannikof ventured up the river in 1818, his disregard for the natives cost him his life and the lives of three of his companions. In 1882 after the cession of Alaska to the States, a trader named Holt ascended as far as Taral but on a subsequent visit he was killed by the natives. In 1884 Lt. Abercrombie explored a part of the river, and in 1885 a thorough exploration of the whole region was made by Lt. Allen, who visited the Ahtena villages on Copper River and on its principal tributaries. From that time on intercourse between the river people and Whites has been increasingly intimate.

Population.-Mooney (1928) estimated 500 Ahtena for the year 1740. Petroff (1884) placed their numbers in 1880 at not more than 300. Allen (1887) gave 366 on the river and its branches. The census of 1890 returned 142, and that of 1910, 297. In 192o the total native population of Alaska speaking Athapascan dialects was 4,657 in 1930, 4,935.

Aleut Indians. A name of unknown origin but traced with some plausibility to the Chukchi word aliat, meaning “island,” which is supposed to have been bestowed upon the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands through a misunderstanding.

Dihai-kutchin Indians. Signifying “Kutchin farthest downstream.”

Connections.-The Dihai-kutchin were a band or tribe of the Kutchin division of the Athapascan linguistic stock. They are added to Osgood’s (1936) list of true Kutchin tribes on the authority of Robert McKennan. (1935).

Location.-The Dihai-kutchin lived about the north fork of Chandalar River, and the Middle and South Forks of the Koyokuk River, Alaska.

Population.-The Dihai-kutchin were never numerous and are now extinct as a separate body of Indians.

Eskimo Indians. All of the coast lands of Alaska from Kayak Island near the mouth of Copper River to the Canadian boundary on the Arctic coast were fringed with Eskimo settlements except the upper end of Cook Inlet and that part of Alaska Peninsula which, with the Aleutian Islands, was occupied by the cognate Aleut. (See Aleut and Canada.)

Haida Indians. A part of this tribe settled on Prince of Wales and Dall Islands early in the eighteenth century and are locally known as Kaigani. (See Haida under Canada.) The Kaigani population in 1910 numbered 530; in 1920, 524; and in 1930, 588.
Han. Signifying “those who dwell along the river.”

Connections.-Athapascan linguistic stock.

Location.-The Yukon River drainage between latitude 64° and 66° N., in east central Alaska and Yukon Territory, Canada.


Katshikotin or Eagle group (about the village of Eagle on Yukon River), including Johnny’s Village and probably also Charlie’s Village or Tadush (near the mouth of Kandik River), Takon of Nuklako (centering at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers), and perhaps a third, Fetutlin (near the mouth of Forty Mile Creek.).

Population.-Mooney (1928) estimates that there were 200 Han in 1740.

Ingalik Indians. Name given by the Eskimo but widely used as applied to these Indians.

Connections.-The Ingalik were one of the westernmost divisions of the Athapascan linguistic stock.

Location.-Between Anvik and Holy Cross on the lower Yukon River, including the drainage of the Anvik River and the region southeast to the Kuskokwim River, including its drainage above Georgetown.


Osgood (1934) makes the following subdivisions:
(1) Anvik-Shageluk group, centering around the villages bearing these names.
(2) Bonasila group, centering around the village of the same name.
(3) Holy Cross-Georgetown group, centering around the villages bearing these names.
(4) McGrath group, the people of the drainage of the upper Kuskokwim River; this group somewhat arbitrarily constructed.

Villages Reported in this Area

Akmiut, a little above Kolmakof on Kuskokwim River.
Anvik, at the junction of Anvik and Yukon Rivers.
Chagvagchat, near the headwaters of Anvik River.
Inselnostlinde, on Shageluk River.
Intenleiden, on the east bank of Shageluk River.
Khugiligichakat, on Shageluk River.
Khunanilinde, near the headwaters of Kuskokwim River.
Koserefski, on the left bank of the Yukon near the mouth of Shageluk Slough, later an Ikogmiut Eskimo village.
Kuingshtetakten, on Shageluk River.
Kviginmpainag, on the east bank of Yukon River, 20 miles from Kvikak.
Napai, on the north bank of Kuskokwim River.
Palshikatno, on Innoko River.
Tigshelde, on Innoko River.
Tlegoshitno, on Shageluk River.
Vagitchitchate, near the mouth of Innoko River.

Population. (See Ahtena.)

Koyukon Indians. A contraction of Koyukukhotana, “people of Koyukuk River.”

Kutcha-kutchin Indians. Signifying “those who dwell on the flats,” called Yukon Flats Kutchin by Osgood (1936). They have also called as follows, but the Eskimo terms are applicable to any Kutchin:

Fort Indians, Ross (MS).
Ik-kil-lin, Gilder quoted by Murdoch (1892).
Itchali, 11th Census, Alaska, p. 154.
It-ka-lya-ruin, Dall (1877, p. 30); Nuwukmiut Eskimo name.
Itkpe’lit, Petitot (1876, Vocab., p. 42).
Itku’dliñ, Murdoch (1892).
Lowland people, Whymper (1868, p. 247).
Na-Kotchpô-tschig-Kouttchin, Petitot (1891, p. 361).
O-til’-tin, Dawson (1888, p. 202B).
Youkon Louchioux Indians, Ross (MS.).

Connections. The Kutcha-kutchin were a tribe belonging to Kutchin division of the northern section of the Athapascan linguistic family.

Location.-Along the valley of the Yukon from the widening of the river a few miles above Circle to about Birch Creek below Fort Yukon.


One at Fort Yukon and one at Senati, on the middle Yukon.

History.-The history of all the Kutchin tribes had best be treated in one place. They were first brought into contact with Europeans when Alexander Mackenzie met some of them in 1789 during descent of the river which bears his name. This became more intimate with the establishment of the first Fort Good Hope in 1847. Until Alaska passed into the hands of the United States practically all of the relations which the Kutchin tribes had with Europeans were through the Hudson’s Bay Company. Since then influences from the west have been more potent. The discovery of gold in the Klondike region and the rush which followed marked the opening of a new era for these people, but one in which the bad for a long time outweighed the good.

Population.-Mooney (1928) estimated that there were about 500 of these Indians in 1740. The Kutcha-kutchin and the Tranjikkutchin may be put together as Kutchin in the census of 1910, which enters 359. The Hudson’s Bay Co.’s census of 1858 gave 842 Kutchin belonging to six tribes as resorting to Fort Yukon. Osgood (1936), who quotes this, believes that the entire Kutchin population at that date might be set down at 1,200. (See Ahtena.)
Connection in which they have become noted .-The Kutchin tribes were noted for their greater energy and more warlike character, as compared with neighboring Athapascans, and for a peculiar three-caste system in their social organization.

Nabesna Indians. From the name of Nabesna River, the meaning of which is unknown.

Connections.-The Nabesna belonged to the Athapascan linguistic family.

Location.–In the entire drainage area of the Nabesna and Chisana Rivers, including the tributaries of the Tanana River, which they form at their confluence, as far down as the Tok River; the upper White River, including its tributaries the Beaver and the Snag, and the headwaters of the Ladue; together an area roughly enclosed between latitude 61°31′ and 63°30′ N., and longitude 141°30′ and 143°30′ W. (Dr. Robert C. McKennan through Osgood, 1936).


According to McKennan (1935), including the following “extremely fluid bands:”
(1)Ranged about Last Tetling Lake and the Tetling River.
(2)Ranged about the mouth of the Nabesna River.
(3)Ranged from the head of the Nabesna through the upper Chisana River to the White.
(4)Ranged from Scottie Creek to the Snag.
The first of these evidently includes the Nutzotin of earlier writers with their villages of Nandell near Wagner Lake and Tetling, and the third the Santotin. Khiltats, at the mouth of Nabesna River, must have belonged to the second division.


Allen (1887) mentions the village of Khiltats at the mouth of the Nabesna River.

History.-White contact with these people was made in 1885 and a settlement established at Chisana in 1913.

Niska Indians. This is a tribe of the Chimmesyan linguistic family which lived just beyond the boundaries of Alaska to the southeast and al times hunted over some of its territory. It belonged properly to British Columbia. (See Canada.)

Natsit-kutchin Indians. Signifying “those who dwell off the flats [i. e., Yukon River].” Also called:
Gens du Large, by Ross (MS), from which came the name of Chandelar River.
Natehe’-Kutchin, by Dail (1877, p. 430).
Neyetse-kutchi, by Richardson (1851, vol. 1, p. 309).
Tpe-ttchié-dhidié-Kouttchin, by Petitot (1891).

Connections.-The Natsit-kutchin were one of the tribes of the Kutchin group of the northern division of the Athapascan linguistics stock.

Location.-On Chandelar River.
Population.-Mooney (1928) estimated 200 Natsit-kutchin as of the year 1740. The census of 1910 returned 177. (See Kutchakutchin.)

Tanaina Indians. Own name, meaning, “people” exclusive of Eskimo and Europeans. Also called Knaiakhotana.

Tanana Indians. Named from the Tanana River.

Connections.-The Tanana belonged to the northern division of the Athapascan linguistic family. They were formerly erroneously classed among the Kutchin tribes.

Location.-“The drainage of the lower Tanana River below the Tok River, the region about the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon, and the region along the latter river above the confluence.” [Osgood, 1936.)

Subdivisions and Villages

Clatehotin, on Tanana River.
Huntlatin, on Tanana River.
Minchumina Lake people, around the lake of that name.
Nuklukayet, a rendezvous for various tribes, on the north bank of the Yukon just below the mouth of the Tanana.
Nukluktana, on Tanana River just below Tutlut River.
Tatsa, on Yukon River.
Tolwatin, on Tanana River.
Tozikakat, north bank of the Yukon at the mouth of Tozi River.
Tutlut, at the junction of Tutlut and Tanana Rivers.
Weare, at the mouth of Tanana River.

Population.-Mooney (1928) estimates a possible population of 500 in 1740 including the Nabesna. Richardson (1851) cut this estimate to 100. Da11 (1870) made it 500, Petroff (1884), 300-700, Allen (1887) 600, the census of 1890, 373. In 1900, 370 were given and by the census of 1910, 415. (See Ahtena.)

Tennath-kutchin Indians. Meaning “middle people.” Also called:

Birch Creek Kutchin, Osgood (1934, p. 172)
Birch River Indians, Whymper (1868, p. 255).
Gens de Bouleaux, Dall (1870 p. 431)

Connections.-The Tennuth-Kutchin were a tribe of the Kutch in group of the northern division of the Athapascan stock.

Location.-In the region of Birch Creek.

Population.-Mooney (1928) estimated that there were about 100 Tennuth-Kutchin in 1740. They have long been extinct having been swept away in 1863, according to Dall (1870), by an epidemic of scarlet fever. (See Kutcha-kutchin.)

Tlingit Indians (literally Lingi`t). Signifying “people,” in their own language Also called:
Kolusehan, a name given to them as a linguistic family by Powell (I H4111, originally a Russian or Aleut term referring to the labrets worn by their women.

Tranjik-kutchin Indians. Signifying “one who dwells along the river [i. e. the Black River].” Also called:

Black River Kutchin, by Osgood (1936).
Cache River People, by Cadzow (1925).
Connections.-The Tranjik-kutchin belonged to the Kutchin group of tribes of the northern division of the Athapascan linguistic stock

Location.-In the country around Black River.

History.- (See Kutcha-kutchi)

Population.-(See Kutcha-kutchin.)

Tsimshian Indians. The home of the Tsimshian is on Skeena River, British Columbia, and the coast to the southward. In 1887, however, Rev. William Duncan, missionary of the Church of England at Metlakatla, 15 miles south of Port Simpson, having become involved in difficulties with his superiors, moved to Annette Island, Alaska, with the greater part of the Indians who had been under his charge. A grant of land was subsequently obtained from the United States Government, and the Tsimshian have continued in occupancy. The census of 1910 reported 729; that of 1920, 842; and that of 1930, 845. (See Canada.)

Vunta-kutchin Indians. Signifying “those who dwell among the lakes.” Also called:

Crow River Kutchin, by Osgood (1934, p. 173), from a stream in their country.
Gens des Rats, by Dall (1877, p. 31).
Rat People, by Dall (1869, p. 261).
Zjén-ta-Kouttchin, by Petitot (1891, p. 361), meaning “muskrat people,” a name probably based on a legend, though a tributary of the Porcupine is called Rat River.

Connections.-The Vunta-kutchin are one of the group of Kutchin tribes belonging to the northern division of the Athapascan linguistic family.

Location.-On the middle course of Porcupine River and the country to the northward, including Old Crow Creek.

Population Mooney (1928) estimated that the Vunta-Kutchin together with the Tukkuth-kutchin, and Tutcone-kutchin comprised a population of 2,200 in 1670, but they had been reduced to 1,700 in 1906 and the census of 1910 returned only 5 under this name by itself (See Kutcha-kutchin.)


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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1 thought on “Alaska Indian Tribes”

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