The New International Encyclopædia/Aleutian Islands

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ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ȧ-lū′shan, also called the Catharine Archipelago. The name of a group of islands, numbering above 150, and consisting of several clusters, which form an insular continuation of the peninsula of Alaska (q.v.) (Map: Alaska, A 5). They lie on both sides of the parallel of 55° N. lat., separating the Sea of Kamtchatka from the Pacific, and naturally subdivide themselves into five groups: (1) the Komandorski Islands, sometimes not regarded as belonging to the Aleutian Islands; (2) the Sasignan, or “Nearest,” Islands; (3) the Rat Islands; (4) the Andreianowsky, very small and little frequented; (5) the Fox Islands, among which is Unimak, the largest in the archipelago. The islands are all craggy, and have a desolate appearance from the sea. Several volcanoes are periodically active, and warm volcanic springs are numerous. Cool springs are frequent and form broad, rapid streams, which empty into adjacent bays or collect in rocky depressions and form lakes which discharge their water into the sea by natural channels. The whole chain or group forms a connecting link between the volcanic range of the west coast of America and Kamtchatka. On account of numerous rocks they are not very accessible to ships. There are many low, scrubby bushes, grasses, moss, and lichens, but no strong and stately growth of trees. Cultivated plants do not succeed well. There are foxes and reindeer, and in the neighboring waters are seal, fish and otter.

The natives are known collectively as “Aleut” (“Aleuts,” “Aleutians,” or “Aleutian Islanders”), from the Russian designation of a people or tribe of Eskimoan stock calling themselves Unungun. They are closely allied in physical characteristics, as in language, to the Innuit, or Eskimo proper; their vocabulary differs considerably from that of the mainland Eskimo, though grammatic structure and many of the vocables are similar. They formerly occupied nearly all of the islands of the Aleutian chain, and were estimated to number 20,000 to 30,000; in 1900 the population was barely 2000. They are vaguely divided into two tribes or sub-tribes, known respectively as Unalaska and Atka. They are strong and agile, capable of enduring great fatigue and extremes of heat and scold, and are peaceful and cheerful. They subsist by hunting and fishing, using implements of wood, ivory, bone, and stone, with the two types of Eskimo water craft (kayak and umiak); their summer habitations are tents or huts like those of the mainland Eskimo, while in winter they occupy huts of stone, snow, or other material, or (especially on Fox Island) underground dwellings. Originally sharing the primitive pantheism of the Eskimo, they were Christianized by Russian missionaries, and are now nominally connected with the Greek Church.