Thursday, November 19, 2009

The End

To round out the end of my blog I decided to show you all a video of a Tlingit carver, Master Tlingit Carver Keith Wolfe-Smarch. Wolfe-Smarch has been carving for about 15 years now and has carvings all over the world. He is from Shakoon (Tlingit name) or Teslin which is a very small village approxiamately 64 miles south of Whitehorse and has about 450 people. Carving has always been his passion, all of his artwork is worn or used in dances and ceremonies. Well now that I have told you enough about him I'm going to let you watch a video that showcases his artwork and has him talking about carving. Sorry once again I don't know how to put a video on blogger, so if you click the link below it will take you to youtube where you can enjoy his artwork.

Here are my resources:

Language of the Tlingit People

Unlike the English alphabet of 26 letters, the Tlingit people have 32 consonants and eight vowels. The Tlingit alphabet is very similar to the shapes of our English alphabet but there are a couple of differences; the letters have underlines on them and apostrophes to distinguish particular sounds. e.g. yéil means Raven while yéil' means elderberry. (notice the second word has an apostrophe after the L.) Researchers found that Tlingit language has 24 sounds that are not related to English sounds. The language is phenomic meaning different tones mean different words. The words in Tlingit have been compared to German because of the gutteral noises that are made. This language is special because it is unlike all of the other languages spoken in Alaska because the noises made are not from that back of throat but from the gut. Many of the consonants have no English equivalents. There are so many different languages spoken in Alaska, it would be something special if I were to learn at least one of them. It sounds like Tlingit would be difficult to learn because of all of the different tones used and how they talk from their gut.

Retrieved on November 18, 2009 from:

What does Tlingit mean??

The word Tlingit means "human being." The word was used to show the difference of animals and human beings, because in the Tlingit culture animals and humans are very alike. Tlingit eventually became its national name. Some speculate that Tlingits have been around for about 11,000 years. The Haida people who are very close to the Tlingits have only been around for 200 years and the Tsimshian indians came from Canada's interior mainland.
Emmons, George Thornton. The Tlingit Indians. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991. Retrieved from on November 18, 2009.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tlingit Food

The food that Tlingit people ate was usually seasonal. In the spring time the eulachon (also known as hooligans) were caught, rendered to an oil and then congealed into a grease which was a highly-desired condiment eatin with dried salmon or herring eggs. In the fall moose and mountain goat were hunted. On the islands marine resources are the most important because all they have around them is water. The islanders would take herring and bird eggs, then seaweed and halibut. Sometimes seals were hunted on the rookeries and in the fall deer were hunted. During summer the women in the village would go out and pick and berries and greens.

Langdon, S. (2002). The native people of Alaska. Anchorage: Edward Bovy

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tlingit Dance

For the Tlingit people dance was a way of showing emotion, whether it would be a story, an apology or for shamans talking to spirits. Dancing is the most important part of a potlach because dancing is like a universal language, everybody knows what it is. Although some of us try to dance were not too good at it and thats why we keep the dancing to the dancers. In this case the dancers are the Tlingits.

Billman, E. (1975). Sheldon museum and cultural center. Retrieved November 17, 2009 from

Monday, November 16, 2009

Her last blanket

After my last post I was inspired to learn more about Jenny and her blankets. When you google "chilkat blanket" under images you will see this picture. I thought it was just another model and chilkat blanket but come to find out that this is Jenny's last blanket woven and the model is her daughter, Agnes Bellinger. Coincidence?

Jenny Thlunaut

Jenny Thlunaut was born in Haines, Alaska, May 18, 1891. She like all of the young Tlingit children enjoyed playing on the beach, picking berries and picking celery. Jenny would travel with the community and go fishing and hunting. When Jenny was ten, she was given her first box of mountain goat wool and began to learn how to weave. Throughout her life she was credited for single handedly keeping the the tradition alive during the lack of interest of Alaska native art. Near the end of her life she put her blankets up on the market for $10,000 - $16,000, even though she was selling these blankets she still gave some of them away. Jenny never kept a blanket for herself. "I don't want to be stingy with this," she said. "I am giving it to you, and you will carry it on"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lost Chilkat Blanket Found

A lost chilkat blanket that was in Colorado was brought back to Alaska. The blanket was believed to be woven over 100 years ago. The blanket was woven by Klukwan weaver Anna Klaney, it is going to be stored in Juneau after being brought back by Mary Paddock. Like most of the Klukwan ceremonial objects this blanket was either taken or sold to art dealer within the past 50 years. Since the blanket is back in its home state the Tlingits are very happy and the article says that if the blanket were to be auctioned it would be an estimate $150,000. That is really expensive for a blanket, and I thought my $60 comforter was expensive!


While I was searching for some type of ceremony and dance videos on the web, I came across a video that had dancing and the blanket. In the description of the video it says that the lady being filmed is dancing at the Native Northwest Coast Dancers. I tried to put the video on the blog itself but I couldn't so to watch tribal dancing just click the link below.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Native People of Alaska

Langdon, Steve J. (2002)l The Native People of Alaska. Tlingit and Haida, Southeast Coastal Indians, page 100.

When I was looking for more information on the Tlingit people, a thought came to my mind how about I go back and look over the book that we got at the beginning of the semester. Since that I have talked about the culture and hunting (some what) I want to inform my readers on how the Tlingit people traveled. Since the Tlingit people lived in Southeast Alaska there is a lot of water surrounding them. The Tlingits depended on dugout canoes for their transportation, the canoes were made out of spruce or cottonwood because red cedar is not found in this region of Alaska. There were two different sizes of canoes that were made, the small size was 10-16 feet long with a "u" shaped bottom that was designed for short trips, the canoe carried up to five people. The larger canoe was 20-50 feet in length it was used for long distance traveling, trading and war. These canoes had v-shaped bottoms and the draft was very deep. Both of these canoes were propelled by diamond shaped paddles, both men and women paddled. Canoes are still being made today but obviously not the same traditional way.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tlingit Spear

In the post before I talked about who the Tlingit people are and I explained what their culture is like. The food that was consumed most was fish, so let us learn about how they used to fish. The Tlingit people used the spear mostly for fishing in shallow waters were the fish could be visible. The spear was made from young fir or spruce. It almost always had a neatly rounded shaft that was 10 to 15 feet in length and the largest diameter was 1/4 inch to 1/2 inches at the fore end of the spear this would give the spear perfect balance. To strengthen the end of the spear it was wrapped with sinew, hide or spruce roots. The end was hallowed so that the butt of the barbed head (kut) could fit, the "kut" was commonly made out of bear bone. The head of the spear was made out of walrus ivory or copper, the length of the spear head varied from 3 to 8 inches with a 1/4 inch thickness. The head of the spear was attached to the shaft by sinew or hide. Although I have never seen this spear, I think this is a vital piece to the culture of the Tlingit people.

The Tlingit People

The Tlingit people are American Indians that live in the southeast region in Alaska. These people range all the way from southern Alaska to Portland Canal, they live the Northwest Culture type and are very close to the Haida's and Tsimshinian. The tlingit is wide spread there are some Tlingit speakers in British Columbia these speakers are refered to as "gunana" which means foreigners according to the to the Tlingits that live on the coast. These Tlingits that live on the coast live of the land through hunting, fishing and community gatherings. The animals that the Tlingits ate consisted of seals and fish like halibut, salmon, and herring were caught with hooks, basketry traps, and spears. The life of the Tlingits change drastically after the 1836 small pox epidemic, the population was estimated around 6,000 post this epidemic. The sub-group that was affected the most were the Tonga's who had almost 1,000 members but after the small pox outbreak the group shrunk down to a total population of 173 people in the group. These days the Tlingit nation is holding there own and are trying to keep the tradition.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kings and Shamans

Like the king to his thrown, the shaman has his "thrown" if you will in the Chilkat Blanket. Whenever we see a thrown we think of a king, it is the kings thrown nobody else's. When there is a king in a village or country he is for the most part respected by the whole community. The same could be said for the shaman, he is looked highly upon only because he is a spiritual healer. Thinking about the shamans within the villages, I think of he or she being an outkast to the people. He is only talked to when needed. Once again two very different cultures are more similar then you ever thought them to be.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chilkat Blanket vs Ordinary Blanket

When we think about blankets the first thought that comes to mind is sleep or warmth. The blankets that the Tlingits used are not for comfort, it's more like a symbol to have the Chilkat Blanket wrapped around you. The Chilkat Blankets were only worn by chiefs, shamans or people of high regard. If you were to go into anybodys room you will see a blanket, for the Tlingits not everybody has a Chilkat Blanket, only a certain few have them. It just goes to show that a very simple object can have two very different meanings in different cultures.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Is A Chilkat Blanket??

A chilkat blanket is a blanket is a blanket or robe that tells a story. The story is usually about the people in the tribe and their way of life. The stories were put on a "pattern board" which is just a normal piece of ply wood. The designs on the board were then transfered into the sewing of the tlingit people. The blanket is made out of four different things: mountain goat wool, cedar bark, commercial wool yarn and sometimes dog fur. The blanket consists of an array colors: red, blue, black and green. To change the colors the tlingits used the copper to change the color. The blanket was usually worn by shamans or chiefs.