Makushin Bay: Its Resources and People

Overview and Teaching Strategies

Enduring Understandings

Students examine resources that relate to human settlement in Makushin Bay - Uguudax- on Unalaska Island in the Aleutian Chain of Alaska, and predict where settlement sites would have been located, based on the availability of food and other resources.  They compare their predictions with the actual locations of sites.  They extend the examination to an analysis of their own community’s location and available resources.

  • People choose to live in places that provide them with their needs.
  • People choose which resources are the most important to them based on both basic needs and cultural practices. 

Time required

1 to 2 hours

Classroom resources

In addition to the maps and images provided here, you will need:

  • Wall map of Alaska

Go to these links for additional information:

Learning Objectives

  • Students will discover what food (and other) resources the ancient Unangax people (Aleuts) depended on.
  • Students will decide which resources they think were the most important to the ancient Unangax people.
  • Students will learn what resources were important to the founders of their village, town, or city.
  • Students will compare their community’s choice of resources with the choices that the ancient Unangax people made


Teaching Strategies

  • Have students examine the resources that are part of this Learning Center.
  • Have students visit the links provided in this Learning Center that provide additional information on Makushin Bay and the Unangax people.
  • Have students complete the Makushin Bay Worksheet (download it by clicking here). Compare students' responses.


There are four permanent village sites marked on the pictorial map of Makushin Bay: the one located on the westernmost point in the map is named Iiqum Angan (which means “beside the seaweed/gravel beach”). Look at the list of factors that were important in the Unangax choice of village site (download the list by clicking here).  Mark those that deal directly with the food quest. How important was food in the decision of where to locate a community?

  • Ask students: Which factor do you think was the most important to the Unangax people in choosing a year-round village site?  Which was the least? 
  • Using the "Factors in Locating a Village in Precontact Days" worksheet that you have downloaded, have students rate each factor, with #1 representing the most important factor and #11 the least important factor.


  • After all students have completed the worksheet, refer to the Ratings by Unangax people (download it by clicking here) and compare students’ answers with the responses the precontact Unangas would give.
  • Additional topics for discussion and consideration or to use as writing prompts:
    • Think about your own community.  What resources surround it?  How do you take advantage of the local resources? 
    • After reading the historic resources quoted provided as part of this Learning Center, speculate about the authors’ backgrounds and opinions based on their descriptions.  Do they seem biased or unbiased?  Based on what evidence?
    • Make a list of the foods you ate and the beverages you drank over the last 48 hours.  Separate the list into two groups: those foods that were grown and processed locally (within 100 miles) and those that were imported to your community from more than 100 miles away.  What does this list say about your community’s location as a source of food?
    • Is your community location based on the availability of food resources?  If not, what is the basis of the location of your community?
    • Would the people of Makushin Bay have chosen your location as a year-round village site?  As a seasonal settlement?  Why or why not?