• top frame 
  • Athapaskan hunter, Alaska
  • Magnifying Glass

Athapaskan hunter, Alaska, c. 1880. Photograph by Edward Nelson.
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, SI 6362.

Fur Trade Enters the North

New Materials, Changing Styles

“There were beads around the ankles on the footed pants they wore, and the parka or shirt also had beads all around the shoulders.” Belle Herbert, Gwich'in elder. born c. 1875. From Shandaa: In My Lifetime, University of Alaska Press, 1988.

Northern Athapaskans were accustomed to trade and eager to acquire European goods. They were also demanding and discriminating trading partners. Imported materials such as glass beads, metal tools and wool cloth were prestigious and much sought after. In the early trading years, however, only small quantities of such goods were in circulation, and their effect on clothing was probably slight. For the most part, people simply adapted the imported tools and clothing materials to already existing indigenous technologies and fashions.