Date of Award

Spring 6-12-2015

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Michael Allen


If Russian and American imperialism in the north Pacific was the lever that turned the wheel of circumpolar history then the Aleut kayak, or “baidarka,” was the fulcrum. Without Aleut technology, and the labor of the Aleuts, the Russian-American Company would not have been able to derive tremendous profits from high value otter pelts. After the otters were nearly driven to extinction, the fur business transitioned to focusing on extracting a high volume of less valuable fur seal skins. Fur bearing animals were the most easily extractable form of wealth, and this wealth formed the basis for the United States justification of purchasing Alaska from Russia.[1] The role played by Aleut technology and labor appears to be insufficiently appreciated. Aleut technology and labor, and how they were exploited by Russia and the United States, will be the subject of this thesis.

[1] James R. Gibson, "Russian Dependence on the Natives of Alaska," An Alaska Anthology Interpreting the Past, ed. Stephen W Haycox and Mary Childers Mangusso (Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1996) (accessed February 8, 2015), 21-42.