Dutch Harbor Local Customs

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    What's in a name?

    by RickinDutch Updated Jul 22, 2005

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    Many folks ask where the name Unalaska came from. The best explanation I have come across is from Ray Hudson, a former teacher, historian and artist who lived here for many years. Ray writes:

    The name Unalaska is rooted in the changes which a native Aleut (Unangan) word has experienced over the past two hundred years. The Unangan called the Alaska Peninsula "Alaxsxa" for mainland. The Russians adopted this as "Alyaska" from which Alaska is derived. Unalaska Island may have derived its name from its proximity to the Alaska Peninsula. "Agunalaksh" is a Russian spelling of the original Unangan word.
    The present day spelling was established in 1890 by the United States Board on Geographical names, standardizing the spelling from several variations used up to that time, including "Ounalashka", "Ounalaska" and "Oonalashka".

    Thus "Unalaska" does not mean not-Alaska, but rather, the name defines its geographical location in terms of the Alaska Peninsula.

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    Unangan - not Aleut

    by RickinDutch Written Jun 27, 2005

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    Local natives prefer to be called Unangan. "Aleut" was the name Russian fur traders came up with for them in the 1700's and retains some negative connotations. Given the long history of negative impacts to their lives from first the Russians then the Americans using the correct term for the Unangans go a long way.

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