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Where Did All the Aleut Men Go?: Aleut Male Attrition and Related Patterns in Aleutian Historical Demography and Social Organization


Historical, economic, and political influences on Aleut demography and social organization are considered in relation to an apparent deficit of Aleut males in the early 20th century. Ethnohistoric records detail persistent waves of explorers, fur hunters, missionaries, bureaucrats, and foreign fishermen coming to the Aleutian region for economic exploitation, with some making it their home. The first major wave consisted of Russian and Siberian crews in pursuit of sea otters and fur seals. These entrepreneurs moved Aleut men to hunting grounds and replaced a large portion of them in the villages. The second wave consisted of Scandinavian and other European immigrants who followed cod, halibut, and herring fisheries and who married into eastern Aleut villages. These movements resulted in two genealogical deficits of Aleut men with concomitant shifts in social organization and economic emphases that contribute to the modern diversity of Aleut society. Aleut evacuation during World War II exacerbated these sex imbalances in the villages of the western Aleutian and Pribilof islands.