Cohort Experiences

Table 4 below presents cohort experiences of Alaska Natives across five twenty-year periods beginning with 1900. It shows the ages or period of the life cycle an elder may have experienced that particular event. A description of historical events beginning with the 1700s may be found within the Decade Value Development Charts.

It is critical to remember that the historical context and cohort experiences of Alaska Natives are diverse. It is also important to remember the period in their life cycle development (or age) when they experienced that event. Experiencing epidemics of small pox, measles and influenza during the early 1900s (collectively referred to as the “Great Deaths”) in young childhood would have more of an impact than if that individual experienced it when he/she were an adolescent.

In general, the impact of this event greatly diminished Alaska Natives’ faith in their traditional ways of healing, led to great distrust of Western Medicine because it could not ameliorate the great loss of life, and created skepticism about its effectiveness. Alaska Native older adults may not trust the system but are dependent upon the system at the same time.

Table 4 Cohort Experiences of Alaska Natives
Time Period
Cohort Age At Experience
Current Cohort Age
1900–1920 The “Great Death” kills 60% of Alaska Native people Children & Adolescents 85+
Children 75–85
  Gold Rush, Second Wave not born yet 65–75
not born yet  
  Nomadic or seasonal lifestyles predominate not born yet 55–65
  Adaptations to death-survivors give up old cultural beliefs    
  AK Brotherhood established in Southeast, AK    
  Become US citizens    
1920–1940 Polio & TB epidemics Young Adults & Middle Aged 85+
  Boarding schools required by Bureau of Indian Affairs Adolescents & Young Adults 75–85
  Nomadic & seasonal lifestyles moves into community Children & Adolescents 65–75
    Children 55–65
1940–1960 WWII: Relocations of Aleuts & seizure by Japanese Middle Aged & Young Old 85+
  Alaska Statehood Young Adults & Middle Aged 75–85
  Loss of lands & rights to statehood Adolescents & Young Adults 65–75
    Children & Adolescents 55–65
1960–1980 Vietnam War Young Old & Old 85+
  Earthquake & Tidal Wave Middle Aged & Young Old 75–85
  Rise of alcohol abuse & criminal behavior Young Adults & Middle Aged 65–75
  North Slope lease auctions Adolescents & Young Adults 55–65
  Relocation Act    
  AK Native Claims Settlement Act & AK National Interest Lands Conservation Act-loss of land, hunting, fishing rights    
  Molly Hootch Act to establish schools in all villages    
1980–present Oil Boom & pipeline development Old 85+
  Telephone & TV in every village Young Old & Old 75–85
  Village Sobriety Movement & education Middle Aged & Young Old 65–75
  Welfare & anti-poverty programs Young Adult & Middle Aged 55–65
  Self Determination    
  Oil spill & Clean up    
  Highest suicide  & social  ill rates in US    
  Migration from villages to urban areas    
  Sexual abuse-Catholic Priests