|Unga Island in the background. Popov Island in the foreground.|
But until recently, neighboring Unga Island was populated as well. And before the invasion by the Russians in the years following Bering's discovery of Alaska in 1741, Unga had a vibrant culture of which little has survived, save some masks.
I am guessing that Aleut culture on Unga was vibrant pre-1741 based on the fact that they made these stunning masks. The making of art generally is impossible without a certain prosperity that affords people the leisure time to create art. But besides the minimum level of prosperity, the making of art also requires that a culture have pride and confidence in themselves and their way of life.
Another point worth mentioning here is that masks are usually provided with eye holes so the person wearing the mask can see. As is apparent from the pictures there are no holes where the eyes are. The person wearing these masks used the holes bored in the nostrils for eye holes. This means that the masks are quite a bit taller than a human head.
Unfortunately, little is known about how the masks of Unga were used. Unlike the Yupik culture which had little European influence until the 19th century, the Unagam culture was impacted by the Russians almost from the start of the Russian invasion. As a result, pre-contact religious practices and the manufacture of accompanying parephenalia were stopped. And the number of generations that intervened to the present day did not carry knowledge of traditional practices forward.