Aleut

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Aleut

(əlo͞ot`, ăl`ēo͞ot'), native inhabitant of the Aleutian Islands and W Alaska. Like the EskimoEskimo
, a general term used to refer to a number of groups inhabiting the coastline from the Bering Sea to Greenland and the Chukchi Peninsula in NE Siberia. A number of distinct groups, based on differences in patterns of resource exploitation, are commonly identified,
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, the Aleuts are racially similar to Siberian peoples. Their language is a member of the Eskimo-AleutEskimo-Aleut,
family of Native American languages consisting of Aleut (spoken on the Aleutian Islands and the Kodiak Peninsula) and Eskimo or Inuktitut (spoken in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Siberia).
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 family. When they were first noted by Vitus Jonassen Bering in 1741, their estimated population was between 20,000 and 25,000. Because of their skill in hunting sea mammals, the Aleuts were exploited by Russian fur traders throughout the coastal waters of the Gulf of Alaska, sometimes as far south as California. The ruthless policies of the traders and conflict with the fierce mainland natives reduced their population by the end of the 18th cent. to one tenth its former size. However, by 1990 their numbers had increased to almost 24,000 in the United States. They continue to live in relative isolation; most are members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Bibliography

See V. I. Jochelson, The History, Ethnology and Anthropology of the Aleut (1933, repr. 1966); R. Ackerman, Ethnohistory in Southwestern Alaska and the Southern Yukon (1970); W. S. Laughlin, Aleuts (1981).

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