Island Culture Today
As long as humans have inhabited the Pribilof Islands, subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering have been an important part of life. Robert F. Schroeder et al. (1987) estimated that in 1981 St. Paul and St. George households consumed 1,692 and 1,155 pounds, respectively, of subsistence resources, including fur seal, sea lion, halibut, and reindeer (see table below). The fur seal has been the most important marine mammal taken for subsistence use, though sea lions are considered more palatable and are taken as well. A 1997 Alaska Department of Fish and Game document indicated that over 70% of households on St. Paul and St. George Islands used marine mammal products for subsistence (Alaska Department of Fish and Game 1997).
Estimated Consumption per Household for Subsistence Purposes in 1981 (lbs)
Source: Schroeder et al. (1987, 690).
Halibut, cod, and sculpin are the primary marine fishes harvested for subsistence (Holmes 1994). Of animals living in the littoral zone, sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus sp.), limpets (Acamea sp.), mussels (Mytilus sp.), other unspecified bivalves, octopus, and sea cucumbers are among the most important from a subsistence perspective (Veltre and Veltre 1981). Unfortunately, even mussels harvested from the remote Pribilof Islands are potential harbingers of paralytic shellfish poisoning. “She [wife of Zalar Oustigoff] had been under the cliffs west of the landing gathering [wood] fuel and while on the beach had eaten some mussels or other shellfish….[she] became so sick when on the hill just beyond the well that she sent for her husband. He went to her to find her complaining of severe pains in her stomach…. The Doctor administered the medicine. The woman was taken to her house and other remedies tried but she became paralyzed very soon, died at 12:20 PM.”34
Sea birds and their eggs, especially murre and red-legged kittiwake eggs, are also food sources (Hanna 2008, 205 and 210; Pierce 1994, 275277). According to Khlebnikov’s notes, bird eggs historically were placed into sea lion fat to preserve them for year-round use (Pierce 1994, 293). Hanna (2008, 204) wrote the following about bird harvest and consumption:
Besides using animals as a subsistence food source, Pribilof Aleuts have utilized animal parts to provide for other necessities. Sea lion intestines were used to sew kamleikas (Pierce 1994, 292), and sea lion skins were used to make baidaras. Murre and puffin skins were used to make parkas, each parka requiring about thirty to fifty skins (Pierce 1994, 27 and 292293).
NOAA created this product in partial fulfillment
of a memorandum of agreement between it and the Alaska State Historic