Buddy; Pal; Partner; Friend
Gui angayuka Kicarwigmen ag’uq. - My partner is going to Anchorage.
Throughout Native Alaska, friendships were an important source of economic assistance as well as a safety mechanism and a way to enhance wealth. In addition to forming friendships within their communities, many men and women established lifelong trading partnerships with people in distant places. There was no limit to the number of trading partners, and many people had several. Trading partners were never relatives, but the children of trading partners might establish their own partnerships. These relationships connected communities to ecologically distinct areas with different resources. In times of need, a person could request assistance from a trading partner. Trading partnerships also facilitated movement. A person with ties to a trading partner in another region could safely travel in that region and might gain access to valuable, nonlocal materials.
Historic sources suggest that Kodiak Alutiiq people maintained trading partnerships with mainland people. Kodiak travelers partnered with Dena’ina traders in Cook Inlet, exchanging whale meat and kayaks for land mammal pelts and goat horn. Additionally, trading partners may have met at large regional trading fairs. Kodiak people traded wooden hats at intertribal fairs, and the southern coast of the Alaska Peninsula was one location for such fairs. Similarly, the Chugach Alutiiq reportedly traveled to the headwaters of the Susitna River to participate in trade fairs with Ahtna, Dena’ina, and Tanana peoples.
Photo: Girls in Old Harbor, ca. 1950. Violet Able Collection, Courtesy the Old Harbor Native Corporation.