First Alaskans, First AmericansThe Paleoarctic were the very first humans to ever set foot in North America. During the final millenia of the Earth's last Ice Age, the Paleoarctic people moved from eastern Siberia to Alaska's outermost edge—about 1,000 miles across the Bering Land Bridge (also known as Beringia), a landscape that doesn't exist anymore because it's since been engulfed by the sea.
The only humans in an entirely new landscape, the Paleoarctic people quickly answered the question of how to survive by mastering brief windows of seasonal abundance: fall berries and bison, wapiti (elk), caribou, and Dall's sheep and spring waterfowl. During the near-total darkness of winter, they augmented the bounty of other seasons with the warmth-giving furs of trapped wolf, fox, and marmots.
But in the day-long brightness of summer, they made the most of the abundant salmon that choked Alaska's rivers, becoming the first in a long line of Alaskans that would use fish as a primary food source. Adding fishing to their arsenal of food skills helped the Paleoarctic people thrive for nearly 6,000 years and successfully spread across the breadth of Alaska, taking advantage of its rivers along the way.
ToolmakingSophisticated tool technology was essential to exploit Alaska's resources. But arguably the Paleoarctic people's greatest innovation was the microblade. Tiny, sharp slivers of stone - among the first standardized, interchangeable tool parts - fit snugly into tough but flexible caribou antler handles, together a strong and deadly combination.
Resources by SeasonFor six millenia, the Paleoarctic people took advantage of the most well-stocked smorgasbord Alaska's ever seen - now-disappeared animals such as bison, horse, wapiti (elk), plus still-native creatures like swan, hare, grouse, and caribou.
Trapping Furbearers: November-February
Wolves, foxes, wolverines. 5-9 hours of daylight
Big Game Hunting: January-March and August-September
Bison, elk, caribou. 5-12 and 13-16 hours of daylight
Waterfowl Hunting: April-May
Geese, ducks, swans. 15-18 hours of daylight
Salmon, burbot, grayling. 16-20 hours of daylight
Berry Gathering: August-September
Blueberry, cloudberry, crowberry. 13-16 hours of daylight
Last updated: April 5, 2017