Each issue provides a calendar of cultural, corporate, and social events. A local radio and television broadcast station; does a minute Native report five mornings a week. No Tlingit person is otherwise on staff for these programs. Native education and equal rights are some of the many issues addressed by the membership, as are Tlingit and Haida well being and social standing. Founded in Provides trust services through Bureau of Indian Affairs BIA to Tlingit and Haida people and Tlingit and Haida villages in land allotment cases, operates health and tribal employment programs, and issues educational grants and scholarships.
Founded in under the Indian Reorganization Act. Contracts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs BIA to provide services to the tribe such as counseling referral, general assistance, assistance in Indian Child Welfare Act ICWA issues, education and cultural development, scholarships, and housing improvement. The organization also handles its own tribal land trust responsibilities.
STA has an extensive social services program, providing counseling, crisis intervention, employment services, housing improvement, youth and education programs, economic development, and historic preservation. STA also supports a tribal court. YNA's Johnson O'Malley program provides dance instruction, runs a culture camp in the summer, and is in the processes of developing a language program.
Houses a varied collection of southeast Alaska Indian art , with elaborate displays of traditional Tlingit regalia, carvings, artifacts, and totem designs. Houses Tlingit regalia, a canoe, a large spruce root basket collection, and other traditional items and artifacts including house posts, hooks, woodworking tools, bentwood boxes, and armor. The museum also contains a large variety of Aleut and Eskimo art. The museum's gift shop sells baskets and other Tlingit art. Shares the history of Haines, the gold rush era, and Tlingit art in the displays.
The center provides books and flyers on different aspects of Tlingit art and history, as well as live demonstrations in traditional crafts. Displays a model panorama of the Tlingit battles against the Russians in and , elaborate carved house posts, and artifacts. The center shows historic films and has a large totem park outside the structure. Classes are conducted in Tlingit carving, silversmithing, and beadwork, and artists remain in-house to complete their own projects.
Promotes Tlingit and Haida carving and traditional art forms and designs by firsthand instruction. The center maintains brochures and other information on artists in the area as well as instructional literature. Cole, Douglas. Seattle: University of Washington Press, Dauenhauer, Nora Marks, and Richard Dauenhauer.
Emmons, George Thornton. The Tlingit Indians. Garfield, Viola E. Jonaitis, Aldona. Art of the Northern Tlingit. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, Langdon, Steve J. The Native People of Alaska. Anchorage, Alaska: Greatland Graphics, Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Benson, Diane E. September 24, Retrieved September 24, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. The Tlingit traditionally lived along the Pacific Coast in what is now southeastern Alaska and northern British Columbia and the southwestern Yukon in Canada.
In the early twenty-first century Tlingit communities are scattered throughout those areas. The Tlingit population numbered about fifteen thousand prior to European contact. This figure may have included the Haida people because some early European writers believed the Haida and Tlingit were the same peoples. Following the outbreaks of disease in the s and early s, the Tlingit figures dropped to 3, in In a census count of the population done in by the U.
Bureau of the Census, 14, people identified themselves as Tlingit. According to the census, 9, Tlingit lived in the United States , and 17, people claimed some Tlingit heritage. In the three Tlingit reserves Canadian name for reservation in British Columbia had a combined population of 1, The Tlingit most likely lived along the southeastern coast of Alaska for thousands of years, since the time when the land was covered with glaciers large sheets of ice. According to Tlingit oral history , when the Athabaskans faced hunger, they sent out a group to explore the south. An older couple volunteered to explore the dangerous meltwater below a glacier and found a beautiful land; these explorers were the ancestors of the Tlingit.
Present-day Tlingit have close ties with the neighboring Haida; both have interests in the Sealaska Corporation. Over thousands of years the Tlingit developed a way of life that helped them survive in the rain-drenched area of Alaska known as the Panhandle. Tlingit men burned, steamed, and carved cedar wood to make canoes for fishing because they obtained most of their food from the sea. Before the arrival of European explorers and settlers, groups of Tlingit people traveled by canoe through treacherous waters for hundreds of miles to engage in war, attend ceremonies, trade, or marry.
In recent times the Tlingit have led the fight for Native rights and have become involved in politics. The first Europeans in the Northwest were the Spanish, British, and Russians who came seeking furs in the mids. In Russian explorer Aleksey Chirikov — sent two boatloads of men on a search for drinking water in Tlingit territory near the site of present-day Sitka, Alaska. Neither boat returned, and there were few attempts to explore Tlingit land again until the s. During the nineteenth century the Tlingit people, who controlled trade in their area of southern Alaska, began trading with the Russians.
Relations were friendly until the newcomers tried to settle and control trade routes. The Tlingit objected, and in Chief Katlian led a successful war party against the Russians in Sitka. They killed many Russians and Aleuts and took thousands of furs; they believed these pelts belonged to them because the animals had been hunted on tribal land. The Russians, however, soon recaptured the site, and a few years later built a new fort that became the headquarters of the Russian-American Company, a fur trading center as well as a government center, until the United States purchased Alaska in Navy to compensate them for the deaths of two of their people.
In time European diseases and other hardships weakened the Tlingit. Between and nearly one-half of the population living at or near Sitka was wiped out by epidemics uncontrolled outbreaks of disease. About this time Americans, who came into Tlingit country looking for gold, began to occupy and control Tlingit lands. The U. They established canneries factories for canning fish , mines, and logging camps—businesses that went against Native traditions of taking only the resources necessary for survival.
The Tlingit protested, but they were no match for American military strength and technology. The tribe was further weakened by the destruction of two of their villages in the late s by the American military, caused by a disagreement over the deaths of two Native people. Over time the American government subjected the Alaskan Natives to the same regulations and policies as American Indians in the United States.
Alaska was not yet a state, but its white citizens enjoyed many U. Natives were deprived of land, and they lost their right to deal with criminal matters according to traditional customs. By the beginning of the twentieth century their way of life was eroding. Among its goals were the same citizenship and education rights enjoyed by non-Natives in Alaska. Few Alaska Natives were willing to accept these conditions, so they did not become citizens.
In the early s, smallpox, influenza flu , and tuberculosis epidemics struck some Tlingit villages, and the population dropped to less than four thousand. Farther south in Tlingit country, Annette Island had been set aside as a reserve for Natives. Some lands were returned to the Tlingit, but not enough to meet the needs of a hunting and fishing people.
The Tlingit people also actively pursued the right to vote. Unlike many Alaska Native people at the time who wished to continue living as they had lived for many generations, Tlingit leaders sought increased political influence. In the first half of the twentieth century disputes developed around such issues as Native citizenship, the right to vote, fishing methods, and discrimination.
The ANB did much to fight prejudice and raise the social status of the Tlingit people as American citizens. In the s the Tlingit people, along with a neighboring tribe, actively pursued land claims. In Alaska became a state. Soon afterwards oil was discovered there, and companies wanted to build a pipeline across Native lands to carry oil south.
In exchange they gave up all claim to other lands in Alaska—in all, nine-tenths of Alaska. The ANSCA also resulted in the formation of twelve regional corporations to be in charge of Native Alaskan economic development and land use. In the early twenty-first century, although Tlingit people enjoy much more acceptance, their fight for survival continues. The Tlingit were closely tied to nature. They believed that everything had a soul, so they respected all of nature.
Ignoring or neglecting other inhabitants of the world could bring disaster, so they were careful to always treat animals and inanimate non-living objects well. Other beliefs centered on a creator and spirit helpers who influenced the weather, hunting, and healing. Raven, who was not only a bird, but a human and a spirit, assisted in creation. Another being called Shagoon was the supreme god, but also represented many other things—ancestors, history, creation, and future destiny. Shagoon, however, remained distant and took little interest in human affairs. Traditionally the Tlingit believed that all members of the tribe were reborn from a common ancestor.
Changes occurred in Tlingit religion during the early s as hundreds of Tlingit died in tuberculosis epidemics and were buried in mass graves. Many Tlingit lost faith in the healing powers of their medicine men, called shaman pronounced SHAH-mun or SHAY-mun , and traditional Native ceremonies that had brought the people together nearly died out. Tlingit people turned to Christian churches for comfort. When they converted to Christianity, many Tlingit were given new names to replace their Tlingit names, which were an important basis of identity and status in their society. The Russian Orthodox and Presbyterian faiths have had a great impact on Tlingit life and are well established in their communities.
Smaller numbers of the people belong to other Christian churches. Those who continue to practice the old tribal religion usually do so privately. The Tlingit language is not closely related to any other language. Because many Tlingit sounds are made in the back of the mouth, the language sounds similar to German. In the nineteenth century a Russian Orthodox priest created the first Tlingit alphabet and developed a program to teach the Tlingit to read and write. He based his alphabet on Cyrillic, or Russian, letters. Soon after that, in their desire to have the Tlingit adopt white ways, Americans tried to suppress the use of the Tlingit language.
A Native movement to teach the language to the young began in the s, when language experts created the Tlingit alphabet that is commonly used today. This alphabet contains letters used in the English language as well as other symbols such as periods and apostrophes to indicate sounds not found in English. Unlike the English alphabet of twenty-six letters, the Tlingit language has at least thirty-two consonants and eight vowels.
The alphabet was created with not only the familiar lettering of English but also with periods, underlined letters, and apostrophes to distinguish particular sounds. Some common expressions are:. In the early twentieth century Tlingit leaders sought power in state politics. A Tlingit named William Paul was elected to the Alaska Territorial House of Representatives in , marking the beginning of a trend toward Native political power in the state. Their power comes from their ownership of valuable lands and the fact that they represent more than sixteen thousand Tlingit and other Natives.
They use their power to influence state lawmakers to pass laws favorable to the Natives. In the United States a city council headed by a mayor governs most Tlingit villages. A few villages, though, have tribal councils organized under the Indian Reorganization Act. In Canada the Taku River Tlinglit are led by a spokesperson and four clan directors, two each from the Wolf and Crow clans.
The Teslin Tlingit Council has a twenty-five member General Council with five representatives from each of the five clans, elected to four-year terms. They also have an Administration to carry out Council decisions. Administration and Council decisions are guided by advice from the Elders Council, composed of all members age 58 and older. In addition to the tribal governments, each clan also has a leader. Clan leaders are chosen based on their character, abilities, social standing as well as their commitment to clan welfare.
In U. Census takers asked people in the United States to identify the groups to which they belonged. Many of those who identified themselves as Tlingit lived in the villages listed below. Some of these villages also contain non-Natives or other tribes; the total shows the combined number of Tlingit residing in all 14 villages as well as elsewhere in the United States.
These numbers do not reflect the 1, Tlingit living on three reserves in British Columbia and Yukon, Canada. Matrix 7: American Indian and Alaskan Native summary file. For centuries the Tlingit economy centered on trade. Only caribou hides, copper, and later, guns, came close to the value of the Chilkat robe. An elderly woman who was a good bargainer often accompanied a trading party; she also kept track of exchange values.
By many Tlingit worked in canneries, and their economy came to be based on work for wages and commercial fishing fishing for profit, not food. A number of people moved from small villages to larger towns where this work was more available. Although the American way of life has greatly altered the Tlingit lifestyle, many of the people have adapted. Most Tlingit work in logging and forestry, fishing, tourism, and other business enterprises. Because the tribe emphasizes the importance of education, a number of Tlingit work in professional positions as lawyers, health-care specialists, and educators.
Corporations created after the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provide some employment in manual labor, office work, and business management. Before their first contact with Europeans Tlingit families belonging to the same clan lived together in large homes made of spruce or cedar planks. They painted crests family symbols on the front of the house and decorated the interior with intricate carvings and pictures of birds and animals. The only openings were a small oval doorway and a hole in the center of the roof that allowed smoke to escape. Inside their houses the Tlingit dug out the center of the floor for the fire and placed platforms around it to make benches for eating.
Another layer of higher platforms formed sleeping compartments; wooden partitions divided these. They built floors of smooth wooden planks and hung large woven mats from the ceiling to separate living areas. Outside walls could be removed to turn the house into an amphitheater for large celebrations. A house could hold six families plus their slaves, in all, a total of forty to fifty people.
The rear of the house was reserved for nobility, the people who owned the house. A carved and painted wooden screen usually hid this area from view. Commoners poorer kin or laborers had beds along the sides of the house. Slaves usually war captives slept by the front door. Each family had its own small fire, but the central fire was used to cook meals for the nobles or for guests at celebrations. The four posts that held up the roof were carved and painted with totem or ancestor figures.
Dark areas under the benches served as prisons for witches, who were tied up and left to starve until they confessed. Girls were also confined there during their puberty rituals. A trapdoor near the fire led to a small cellar for steambaths. Outside on the beach families kept canoes, fish drying racks, and fish smoking sheds. Palisades high fences made of sharpened logs surrounded some villages.
In summer the people moved to fishing camps where they lived in temporary shelters. Europeans influenced the Natives to build their houses on raised wooden posts, but the Tlingit kept their custom of carving wood figures on the posts.
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They added windows, multiple doors, inside walls, stoves instead of fireplaces, and porches. In modern times many Tlingit live in cities. Those who remain in villages live in single-family homes of various styles. Tlingit men and women traditionally wore loincloths two pieces of cloth hanging from the waist in front and back and skirts made of cedar bark.
Because of the frequent rainy weather, they made raincoats from natural substances such as spruce root or cedar bark. The Tlingit wore hair ornaments and bracelets and practiced ear and nose piercing, face painting, and tattooing. The wealth of a Tlingit woman could be determined by the size of her labret, a wooden disc inserted in a slit cut into the lower lip.
As a woman grew older and richer, larger and large discs were inserted, until finally her lip might flap loosely on her chin. In modern times many people wear a button blanket, or dancing robe, made from red, blue, or black felt. Headdresses ranged from simple headbands to colorful carved cedar hats inlaid with pretty shells and finished with ermine fur. The wealthy often wore carved hats stacked high with wooden rings; each ring represented a time the headpiece had been given at a potlatch.
Today, most Tlingit people dress in modern clothes, but they often display their clan or family crest on clothing or jewelry. The traditional Tlingit diet centered on foods from the rivers and sea, including seal, seaweed, clams, herring, salmon eggs, and fish primarily salmon, plus halibut, cod, and herring. Fish was smoked, baked, roasted, boiled, or dried for later use. Berries, seaweed, and deer meat were also important. Bear provided food and fur for robes. The men also hunted mountain sheep and goats, birds, gulls, and ducks. Ocean catches included seal, sea lion , sea otter , and sometimes small whales.
Only poor families ate porpoise, because it gave people a bad body odor. Before leaving on a hunt, a man purified himself by bathing and fasting going without food or drink. His wife and children had to stay quiet at home while he was gone to avoid disturbing his luck. After killing an animal, hunters prayed to it to ask forgiveness. Women gathered roots, ferns, sweet potatoes, cow parsnips, and the sweet inner bark of the hemlock a special treat. They cooked in watertight boxes or baskets by dropping in hot rocks. Other cooking implements were spits over fires and earth ovens lined with leaves.
To start a fire, they used a wooden hand drill or iron pyrite and quartz to make a spark. To help the fire catch quickly, they put wax from their ears on the tinder. In modern times the Tlingit use cooking methods learned from the Norwegians, Russians, Chinese, and Filipinos who have immigrated to Alaska, and rice has become one of their most common foods. Fry-bread is used for everyday meals and for special occasions, and certain fish oils are still considered a luxury.
Traditionally uncles and aunts taught Tlingit children how to survive and how to participate in society. Anyone within the clan could reprimand or guide a child. Today most Tlingit children are raised in typical American one-family homes, and the role of the aunts and uncles is not as great. In the smaller Tlingit communities, however, some children are still raised according to the old ways.
Beginning in , two separate systems of education were set up in the Alaska Territory—one for Natives run by the federal government and one for whites run by the territorial government. It was not until that schools in Alaska were integrated. Many Tlingit go on to receive degrees in higher education. In addition to regular schooling, children sometimes attend dance groups, traditional survival camps, art camps, and Native education projects. The Tlingit believed that sickness was the sign of possession by an evil spirit, and shaman had to drive out the evil spirits.
Each yek had its own special name and could assume both animal and human forms. Shaman were paid in advance for their services. If they failed to cure someone, they often claimed that bad spirits interfered with them and requested further payment to continue their services. While many shaman were men, some powerful women also became healers. Shaman never cut or combed their hair. They wore aprons of animal hides and decorated their shoulder robes and crowns with animal claws and carved bones.
When engaged in healing dances, they often wore masks that looked like one of their yeks. They shook rattles and charms, and chanted, groaned, and hissed themselves into a trance-like state. When a shaman died, he or she passed healing powers on to a younger clan member. These junior healers knew they had been chosen because they would become dizzy or ill following the funeral; they might also faint or have seizures. An assistant then took this novice into the woods to encounter an animal spirit. A land otter was the spirit most of the time. The shaman would get its power by killing it and cutting off a slice of its tongue.
Every time he went into the woods after that, he would obtain other spirit helpers. In the early twenty-first century Tlingit people have access to modern medical treatment, but healing through diet and traditional local medicines still takes place. Dances were performed at potlatches special gift-giving ceremonies or around the evening fire. People told stories, made fun of people, or extended apologies through dance movements accompanied by the music of drums and carved rattles. One Tlingit dance told the story of a funeral. Dancers wore masks carved and painted with animals and mythical figures.
They also wore headdresses made of sea lion whiskers and birdfeathers that they showered down on guests to show good wishes. The intricately designed Chilkat robe is made from mountain goat wool and cedar bark strips. It can take a weaver up to five years to complete one robe. Both types of robes were signs of wealth. These art forms nearly died out, but during the twentieth century the skill revived when elderly weavers were encouraged to pass down their knowledge to younger ones.
The Tlingit carved totem poles in the shape of animals and humans. Totems could be as high as 90 feet kilometers tall and told family stories and legends. They honored chiefs or loved ones and commemorated events such as a birth or a successful hunt. Memorial totems held the ashes of deceased loved ones.
Occasionally, totems were created to make fun of someone who had wronged the clan or village. Leaders often hired a carver and selected crest designs from their elite ancestors. They placed the finished pole in a doorway or used it as a pillar honoring a dead relative or as a memorial on the beach. After the totem pole was completed, the owner gave a potlatch. His guests helped him erect the pole.
Then everyone feasted, gifts were dispensed, and the owner told the tales of each figure on the totem. Tlingit rock art often has the same clan crests found on totem poles. Other rock art designs include sailing ships, mythological figures, ancestors, and symbols of wealth or victory. The Tlingit social system was very complex. From birth each person belonged to the same group as the mother, either Eagle or Raven, and was only permitted to marry a person from the other group.
The Raven and Eagle groups were divided into clans. Each clan had its own crest an animal symbol. Clans were further divided into houses or extended families. Beyond family and clan groupings, the Tlingit were divided into units called kwan, which were communities of people who lived in a mutual area, shared residence, intermarried, and lived in peace. Potlatches have always been an important part of Tlingit life. A potlatch is a great feast where people show respect, pay debts, and display their wealth. The host of the potlatch gives gifts to everyone present.
In modern times potlatches are held for a variety of occasions such as funerals, adoptions, the naming of a baby, raising a totem pole , or building a lodge. They may take years of planning; in the past they lasted four weeks or more, but they seldom last that long today. The Tlingit were a warlike people who raided neighboring tribes and other clans to seek revenge for insults or injury.
Tlingit warriors wore shirts of untanned moose hide covered with armor made of wooden slats that covered the body from the neck to the knees. They sometimes took women and children as slaves, but men were considered too dangerous and were instead slain and their heads or scalps taken. If her family found the gifts acceptable, they gave generous gifts in return.
The Tlingit believed that people who died naturally went through a thorny forest and crossed a river to reach the Town of the Dead the cemetery. They stayed warm from the heat of the cremation fire and ate the food and drink their relatives put in the fire. They were also fed by food people ate in their memory at potlatches. The clan met to sing songs and give money toward the funeral. His body stayed there for the four days until cremation. Sometimes important chiefs remained on this bench of honor until they decomposed.
Mourners, wearing old clothes and rope around their waists, sang clan songs every morning and evening. Widows cut off their hair and burned it in the cremation fire. They also fasted did not eat or drink for eight days, except for a little food in the evening every other day. They always put some of each meal into the fire to feed their dead husbands. It was considered dangerous to cry too much because grief might cause another relative to die. On the day of cremation men removed a plank from the wall, and took the body out to be burned. Afterwards they collected the ashes in a blanket and put them in a grave box or mortuary totem pole.
Then everyone feasted at a potlatch. For the Tlingit, three potlatches feasts and giveaways were required to properly send a deceased person off to the spirit world. During the first, they prepared the body for cremation or burial more common today , cooked food for the feast, and disposed of the body. The third potlatch took place a year later; it ended with a celebration of life and happy stories and songs. Lacking a written language, the Tlingit used storytelling and plays that included music and dancing to pass down their history. In the following story a young man whose wife has died does not participate in her funeral potlatch ceremony.
Instead he follows the Death Trail, and his unusual action leads to strange results.
Early one morning he put on his fine clothes and started off. He walked all day and all night. He went through the woods a long distance, and then to a valley. The trees were very thick, but he could hear voices far away. At last he saw light through the trees and then came to a wide, flat stone on the edge of a lake.
Now all the time this young man had been walking in the Death Trail. He saw houses and people on the other side of the lake. He could see them moving around. Upon the lake a little canoe was being paddled about by one man, and all the shore was grassy. He was very happy to see her again. People asked him to sit down. If you eat that you will never get back. Let us go right away. Then they started down the trail, through the valley and through the thick woods. The chief laid down a nice mat with fur robes on it for the young wife.
The young man went out to get his wife, but when he came in with her, they could see only him. When he came very close, they saw a deep shadow following him. When his wife sat down and they put a marten skin robe [a marten is a weasel-like mammal] around her, it hung about the shadow just as if a person were sitting there. When she ate, they saw only the spoon moving up and down, but not the shadow of her hands.
It looked very strange to them. Judsen, Katharine Berry, ed. Chicago: A. McClurg, An important issue for the Tlingit is having their own tribal courts and judges. One of the reasons this is so important is that American courts do not understand traditional Tlingit values. Most sentences do not reflect Tlingit ideas of justice. In deciding cases in tribal court, they try to choose consequences that will help the accused learn a lesson and modify future behavior.
Tlingit culture has undergone a rebirth that began in the s. There has been a revival of dances, songs, potlatches, language, artwork, and stories. Discussions are taking place about discrimination: how it can actually make people feel sick and what can be done to help the victims. Elaine Abraham — , the first Tlingit to enter the nursing profession, went on to a career in education.
Tlingit activist Elizabeth Peratrovich — made a moving plea for justice and equality for Alaska Natives in that led to the passage of an anti-discrimination bill. Beck, Mary G. Heroes and Heroines: Tlingit-Haida Legend. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, Bial, Raymond. The Tlingit. New York : Benchmark Books, Brown, Tricia, and Roy Corral. The Tlingit Indians in Russian America, — Richard Bland and Katerina G. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, Hancock, David A. Tlingit: Their Art and Culture. Liptak, Karen. North American Indian Ceremonies.
New York : Franklin Watts, Nichols, Richard. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, Swanton, John R. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, Thornton, Thomas F. Being and Place among the Tlingit. Edward D. Tlingit meaning "the people" is the name given to a native group of the Northwest Coast, whose original homeland was located in the Alaskan panhandle. With the exception of a part of the Prince of Wales Island , the thirteen tribes that make up the Tlingit group occupied the land of the panhandle south of Yakutat Bay. The Tlingit developed as a coastal culture, well adapted to the rugged, heavily forested coastal areas that they inhabited.
Beginning in the 18th century, the Tlingit tribes experienced frequent conflicts with the early Russian fur traders who first entered the area at that time. In , Russian adventurers built a fort on one of the islands that makes up the southeastern archipelago.
But three years later, in , they were driven out by Tlingit warriors. Some time later, however, a Russian trader by the name of Aleksandr Andreyevich Baranov was successful in recapturing the fort. Baranov turned the fort into a trading post that, over time, grew into the present-day city of Sitka. By the United States had won control over Alaska and opened Tlingit lands to settlers and prospectors searching for gold.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, the Tlingit, like other Alaskan natives, have fought for their civil rights and for control over the natural resources of their ancestral lands. In , the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act transferred about million acres of land back to native Alaskans, including the Tlingit, who were organized into a regional corporation called Sealaska, with the title to , acres of land and , acres of mineral rights.
Today Tlingit work in industry, business, government, and the professions. In the Tlingit gained media attention when two Tlingit youths from Alaska who had attacked a pizza delivery man in Washington state were turned over to an ad hoc tribal court, which imposed a traditional punishment of banishment to an isolated island off the coast of Alaska. In the 18th century, at the time of the initial European entry into the area, the total number of members of the thirteen Tlingit tribes was estimated to be about 10, Over the course of the next one hundred years, their numbers dwindled; at one time only about 4, remained.
As of the U. Census, the number of tribally enrolled Tlingit in the United States was 17, Almost all contemporary Tlingit live in the state of Alaska. Many of their original villages on the southeastern Alaska coast between Ketchikan and Yakutat are still populated. This is an area of rugged mountains with snow-capped peaks, offshore islands, and plentiful streams. The language of the Tlingit Indians belongs to the Dene linguistic family. Tlingit is a highly endangered language, meaning that younger people are no longer learning Tlingit as a mother tongue , or first language.
The best estimates for number of speakers of Tlingit in Canada and the United States is between and in In , a proposal to link the Yeniseian languages of central Siberia and the Na-Dene languages of northwestern North America into one large language family was presented by Edward Vadja of Western Washington University.
The Yeniseian language family, which only has a few remaining living languages, did not show any genetic relationship with any of the other language families of the Old World. The most well-known language of this family is Ket, which has only about speakers. Many different attempts to link Ket to the languages of the Old World have been proposed during the latter half of the twentieth century. Veda's proposal has been supported by many linguists who specialize in the Na-Dene languages as well as the Siberian languages.
The most important character in Tlingit mythology is the trickster figure Raven, who is also considered the ancestor of the Tlingit. The power of animal spirits in general and communication between the spirits of animals and humans are also themes in Tlingit myths, as is reincarnation. Traditional beliefs encompassed an afterlife spent in one of two domains, corresponding roughly to the Judeo-Christian Heaven and Hell : Kiwa-a was the heaven for the virtuous, while those who had been morally deficient went to a place of torment called Ketl-kiwa , or Dog Heaven.
A common Tlingit folk belief was that if a girl going through puberty looked at the sky, she would cause a storm. A special hood with tassels was worn by girls of this age to shroud their eyes. The Tlingit forebears were converted the Orthodox Church by the Russian missionaries who followed the traders that arrived in the area in the 18th century. The traditional religion of the Tlingit, like that of most hunting and gathering cultures, was based on animism, the belief that spirits—which the Tlingit called jek— inhabit people, animals, and objects in the natural world.
They believed that the environment can be influenced in magical ways, either for good or ill, by human intervention, a belief that led to the development of a whole constellation of customs and taboos intended to ensure prosperity and prevent disaster. Many such customs and taboos were designed to placate and mollify the souls of the animals that were the chief prey of the Tlingit.
The Tlingit are also thought to have believed in a creator, called Kah-shu-goon-yah , who controlled both the heavens and the earth, and whose name—which means "divisible-rich-man"— was always whispered rather than uttered aloud. Each Tlingit clan had a totem animal with which it identified, and erected totem poles as tributes to their totem animals.
The Tlingit also paid homage to their ancestors and included them as elements of totem pole designs. The most important human figure in Tlingit religious belief was the shaman, who served many vital roles within Tlingit society. The Tlingit shaman could be either male or female and functioned as priest, doctor, and counselor to his or her people. Today many Tlingit observe the holidays of the Russian Orthodox calendar. Within traditional Tlingit society, by far the single most important occasion was a gathering called a potlatch , a communal ceremony that centered on feasting and gift-giving and that accompanied almost every major event in Tlingit life.
A potlatch might be given by a retiring chief in honor of the occasion of his role being taken over by a new leader. Potlatches were held to celebrate birthdays and to legitimize adoptions and marriages. Sometimes a potlatch would be held for no other reason than to demonstrate in no uncertain terms the wealth and status of the host or to make a good impression on guests or visiting dignitaries.
At other times, a Tlingit might host a potlatch as a means of saving face and restoring dignity following an embarrassing public failure or a personal disappointment. The potlatch is a form of redistributive exchange. Redistributive exchange involves a complex level of social organization within a society.
Modern taxation is an example of redistributive exchange. In redistributive exchange, a centralized authority accumulates wealth and then through culturally defined rules, distributes that wealth to members of the society. These traditional potlatches were later replaced by "destructive potlatches" that developed after European colonization of the region. In particular, it was the availability of trade goods that were incorporated into the system of Tlingit wealth that changed the nature and structure of the potlatch.
The destructive potlatch was an ostentatious display of wealth and prestige, which called for as much showing off as possible, the entire point of the ritual being to waste or destroy publicly as much of the host's wealth as possible. The goal was to demonstrate that the host was so wealthy that even such large-scale waste could not damage his economic situation.
The potlatch simply served to establish and reinforce his standing within the community. The host of a potlatch might throw precious oil on the fire until the flames leap out to singe the surrounding guests. A wealthy chief might kill a valuable slave with a special club known as a "slave killer" and then fling the slave's scalp to his rival. Many beautiful things were made by Tlingit craftspeople simply in order that a chief or other notable person might give them away or destroy them at a destructive potlatch.
Major life events of the Tlingit were traditionally marked by the potlatch also called a koolex. Such events included the transfer of ancestral names to children; the point at which a daughter became eligible for marriage; a son's coming-of-age also marked by the erection of a memorial totem-pole and the construction of a new house ; a marriage; and funeral rites. Unlike that of most other American Indian groups, Tlingit society evolved as an aristocracy. At the top of the Tlingit social ladder were the chiefs, who were considered to be of royal blood.
Directly beneath the chiefs in rank and privilege were members of the nobility, and beneath them were the working-class or common people, the majority of the population. At the bottom of Tlingit society was a slave class made up of members of other tribes who had been captured in war. Tlingit society equated wealth with the right to rule; chieftainship, along with the rights, advantages, and prerogatives that accompany it, was passed on from one generation to the next of the same wealthy family. Tlingit chiefs and nobles controlled all the tribe's wealth, determined the social rank of the members of the tribe, laid claim to the best fishing and hunting areas, and maintained the exclusive right to practice certain highly esteemed crafts.
The Tlingit have three advocacy organizations that promote their culture, rights, and welfare. The Alaska Native Brotherhood is concerned with cultural preservation; the Tlingit-Haida Association Haida are a neighboring tribe address housing and other social welfare issues; and the corporation Sealaska lobbies for economic and political power. Some Tlingit villages have their own city officials, police forces, and school boards. The Tlingit have access to, and use, modern medical services. Traditionally, they had a system of folk medicine that included principles of hygiene and a knowledge of herbs.
When necessary, they consulted with a special healer who had more advanced knowledge of medical practices. Arranged marriages were formerly the norm, but this practice continues to diminish during the early 21st century. Divorce was rare in traditional Tlingit culture, as it was considered an affront to the clans of both the husband and wife. The Tlingit had an elaborate system of kinship by which their society was divided into two halves, or moieties, called Raven-Crow and Eagle-Wolf. Although the various rules and prohibitions attached to this system are still upheld theoretically, in practice they are often broken, and its terminology has fallen into disuse among the younger Tlingit.
A child's lineage is linked to the maternal rather than the paternal side of the family, so maternal relatives traditionally played an important role in a child's upbringing. Traditionally, sons learned how to hunt, fish, and fight from their maternal uncles; daughters learned domestic skills from their maternal grandmother and aunts, who also prepared them for childbearing and taught them the history of their clan. The family elders still hold a high level of respect and influence among the Tlingit, including those who are college educated.
In the summer, Tlingit men traditionally wore no clothes, or only a breechcloth made of animal skin. In the winter, they wore shirts with trousers or leggings made from deer, caribou, or other animal skins. These were decorated with fringes at the sides and bottom and with rows of porcupine quills. Women wore cedar-bark skirts and capes in the summer and skirts or tunics of buckskin during the cooler seasons. Both men and women went barefoot much of the time, even in snow during the winter. On especially rough terrain, they wore moccasins, or snow-shoes with webbing or spikes. Women wore their hair loose or in braids, with ornaments of wood or shells and beads, and both men and women wore feathers in their hair.
People who became shamans were forbidden to cut or even comb their hair. A fur cap was a common form of winter headgear. Both men and women painted their faces, either the entire face or only the upper or lower part.
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Black and red were the colors most often used. Often, rings were painted around the eyes. Tattooing was also common. Mourners wore old clothes and cut their hair short. The Tlingit of today wear modern, Western-style clothing appropriate to their northern climate. Traditional clothing, masks, and headdresses are still worn on ceremonial occasions, and by dancers and other performing groups.
Traditional Tlingit garments are known for their intricate beadwork, typically in white on a red background. Chilkat blankets, with their abstract animal designs, are valued by collectors of folk art. The traditional Tlingit diet consisted of fish, meat, and wild plants. Given their resource-rich environment, they rarely experienced times of deprivation. The rivers of their Alaskan homeland abound with salmon, halibut, herring, candle-fish, and other fish, which the Tlingit caught with nets and traps, speared, shot with bow and arrow, or sometimes simply stunned with a club.
Skimming the open sea in their enormous dugout canoes, they hunted whales, seals, sea lion , and walrus. On land, they hunted deer, mountain goats, bear, and small animals and availed themselves of the bounty of bird's eggs, berries, and edible plants that were theirs for the taking. Although today's Tlingit eat typical modern-day American fare including packaged convenience foods , salmon, their traditional staple, still plays a prominent role in their diet, along with other fish, including halibut, herring, and cod, as well as crabs and other shellfish.
Salmon is eaten both fresh and dried, and salmon grilled over a smoking fire is especially popular. Oil from the euchalon, or candlefish, is used as a dip with many foods. Modern Tlingit young people attend public schools, where, much like school-aged children everywhere in the United States, they are taught basic subjects like math, history, spelling, reading, science, social studies, and the use of computers. But Tlingit teachers are also concerned that their students learn something about their culture and old traditions before this knowledge is lost completely.
Sapir read a paper at the Philadelphia meeting of the American Anthropological Association in , on the Na-dene, a name he chose for a linguistic group composed of Haida, Tlingit, and all the Athapascan languages . The material used for Tlingit was that embodied in Dr. He drew upon the various sources of Athapascan material, restoring in many instances hypothetical parent-forms with which to make his comparison. It was only in the winter of that an opportunity presented itself for a satisfactory examination of Tlingit.
Louis Shotridge, a Tlingit Indian, spent some weeks in New York City, during which time Professor Boas secured rather full material, chiefly in the form of grammatical notes and lists of words. Particular attention was given by Professor Boas and his students to an exact classification and representation of the sounds of Tlingit. With the preparation and publication of this material  , an opportunity for a profitable comparative study from the side of Tlingit was presented for the first time.
During the years in which a satisfactory knowledge of Tlingit has been awaited, various Athapascan languages have been studied, and bodies of texts and grammatical sketches have been published.
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The first of these dealing with Hupa contains some regrettable deficiencies in phonetic exactness. There are still large and important groups of Athapascan dialects as yet unstudied or unavailable, due to delay in. This page has been proofread , but needs to be validated. By Pliny Earle Goddard Th e question of the possible connection of Tlingit and Athapascan presented itself to Professor Franz Boas, when, during his work on the Northwest coast, the morphological similarities were observed by him .