Unangam Tanangin – The Aleutian Islands


Unangam Tanangin (The Aleutian Islands – lit. “Lands of the Unangan”) are a 1,500-mile-long archipelago spanning the sea between Russia to the west and Alaska to the east. The islands are home to the indigenous Unangax̂ (lit. “people”), known in English and Russian as the Aleut / Алеу́ты. Despite centuries of colonial influence from both Russia and the United States, and brief Japanese occupation during World War II, the Unangax̂ today are a community dedicated to preserving their heritage.

This map may be the first of its kind to map the entire Unangax̂ homeland in Unangam Tunuu (the Aleut language). That’s surprising given the rich tradition of Unangax̂ toponymy not just for islands and communities (the features included on this map), but for thousands of relatively minor places – many of which are of more cultural significance than geographic. In fact, the name “Alaska” comes from the Unangax̂ name for the Alaska Peninsula, “Alasxix,” meaning “mainland.” In a similar case of Russian colonists transporting names as they traveled East, the word “Aleut” and “Aleutian” likely are derived from “aliat,” meaning “island” in the Luorawetlan language of mainland Siberia.

Map by the Decolonial Atlas’ Jordan Engel, with support from Roxana Kashatok, Aquilina Lestenkof, Crystal Dushkin, Lauren Peters, Josephine Shangin, Sally Swetzof, Anna Melovidov, Millie McKeown, Liza Mack, Ed Philemonof, and Evan Gardner. The Unangam Tanangin Map can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.

For comparison, below are two maps of Unangam Tanangin in English and Russian.

Aleutian Islands Map
The Aleutian Islands as they are known in English. Source.
Алеу́тские острова́
Алеу́тские острова́. Source.

The following is a list of the place names which appear on this map.

English Name Unangam Tunuu Name Translation
Aleutian Islands Unangam Tanangin Lands of the Unangan
Attu Island Atan
Agattu Island Angatux̂ Has big sides
Kiska Island Qisxa Cramped, bent
Little Sitkin Island Sitignax̂
Amchitka Island Amchixtax̂
Semisopochnoi Island Unyax
Gareloi Island Anangusix̂
Tanaga Island Tanax̂ax Great island
Kanaga Island Kanaga
Adak Island Adaax
Adak Adaax
Atka Island Atx̂ax̂
Atka Atx̂ax̂
Amlia Island Amlax Narrow
Seguam Island Saĝuugamax Major bird colony
Yunaska Island Yunax̂sxa
Chuginadak Island Tanax̂ Angunax̂ Big island
Umnak Island Unmax Out there in the sea
Nikolski Chalukax̂ Corner, narrow bight
Unalaska Island Nawan-Alaxsxa The mainland along there
Unalaska Iluulux̂ (Bay) going in a half circle
Akutan Island Akutanax̂ The island over there
Akutan Achan-ingiiga Salmonberry bushes below it
Unimak Island Unimax
False Pass Isanax̂ Hole
Sanak Island Sanaĝax
Cold Bay Udaamagax
King Cove Agdaaĝux̂
Unga Island Uĝnaasaqax̂ Warmed
Sand Point Qagun Tayagungin
Nelson Lagoon Niilsanam Alĝuudaa
Alaska Peninsula Alaxsxix̂ Mainland
Saint Paul Tanax̂ Amix̂
Saint George Anĝaaxchalux̂ Place of rushing wind

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