The Native people believed very strongly in their traditions and most of the time followed them strictly. The belief in traditions seems to be still followed and respected, although as time changes, they seem to be getting less and less important. Each tradition has a purpose. Some are for trapping, and some are for the burial ceremonies called "potlatches." Even more importantly, they believe in traditions for animals. Animals are very much respected because they use certain animals for their ethnic group, dances, and ceremonies.
It was the common belief that when a man was out trapping he never stole an animal out of someone else's traps. Trapping was the native people's livelihood. If they didn't bring in a good amount of furs, they wouldn't be able to earn enough money to get all of next winter's supplies. If a man or woman did steal an animal, they believed he/she would later become crippled. If the animal stolen was a wolf, one of the thief's children would die. This particular belief was good training for not stealing and it encouraged independence.
If a native was to become very sick and knew he needed help, he would go to the medicine man. The medicine man would explain what was wrong. He might say not to eat a certain food or maybe not to cut with a knife for a specific amount of time. When that time was passed, he would give his permission to start using that knife or eating the certain food again. Sometimes this highly respected man might even forbid a husband and wife with each other. Another ritual the medicine man would perform was, to get a cup of water, blow into the cup, put his hand over it and talk as if to someone. He would then hand it to you and you would drink. This, they believed, would make you well.
During the trapping season for beaver a woman wasn't suppose to sleep with her husband. The people believed very strongly in this. The native people also say that if a man is out on the trap line and his wife is "messing around" on him back in the village, the beaver would show some kind of sign. The husband would know even before he got back to the village.
Another belief was that when a husband died and was getting buried, his wife would cut a big gash in both of her legs. This was to show how much she loved her husband. They say it also showed true love for one another. The women always had long, beautiful hair. A woman in mourning would cut her hair short and wear old tattered clothes. She would keep this up until her husband's potlatch was over. Only then could she start fixing herself up again and thinking of marriage. This went for the men as well. They didn't think of marriage again until they had a potlatch for their wives.
It was also a belief that when a woman died, after the burial, all of her belongings were put outdoors or in the community hall and distributed among the women. The same also went for the men. If you picked an item worth money, a gun, or some other expensive item, at the potlatch you would repay the husband or wife with either a blanket, fur or a hand-sewn item.
When a husband or child died, every morning and evening, the wife or mother would put a little of everything she had cooked in a piece of birch bark. She would then put it in the fire. She would do this before she would eat. The idea behind it all was to give the deceased person something to eat until they got used to the food they eat beyond. The wife or mother would keep this up until she felt the deceased person was comfortable with the food beyond.
When there was a newborn baby in the house you didn't use a knife for operating or cutting. The reason being that you would cut the baby's life short. If a baby was sick, the medicine man would tell you to keep a piece of fish tail or dry meat under the baby's pillow. That way when the spirit came instead of taking the baby, it would eat the fish or meat instead. You didn't hang a child's clothes out to dry during the night. If you did the spirit would take some part of the child and the child would get sick.
Even now some of the natives believe in this. They especially take great consideration in it during the Stick Dance in Nulato, Alaska, as this is when the Natives believe that their deceased are around the village. Even at night they don't leave the little ones at home alone. They get a sitter.
Young Natives are told not to call the elders by their names. If the person they were addressing was an elderly person, they called them grandma or grandpa. If it was a middle-aged person, they called them aunt or uncle.
The Alaskan Natives believed very strongly in their traditions. It was their set of rules. They lived them to the best of their ability. Most importantly they never would disobey their beliefs that were taught for generations and highly respected.