John T. Willis

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tlingit People

Evelyn and I have been in Alaska. While we were there, we were introduced to the Tlingit people. Here are some highlights.

Natives tell us that we should pronounce Tlingit as Klinket. Tlingit people are indigenous of the Pacific Northwest. The word means "People of the Tides." The Tlingit are a matrilineal (mother lineal) society that developed a complex hunter-gathering culture in the temperate rain forest of the southeast Alaska coast and the Alexander Archipelago. Some live in British Columbia and Yukon. Another tribe, called the Kaigani Haida lives in the southernmost part of Prince of Wales.

Over time, the Tlingit people developed extensive trade networks with Athabascan tribes of the interior, and intermarried with them. Large populations live at the headwaters of the Taku River. Approximately 15,200 Tlingit people live on earth. Tlingit people as a whole participate in the commercial economy of Alaska, and thus live in typically American nuclear family households with private ownership of housing and land.

Tlingit people emphasize wealth, economic power, generosity, proper behavior, all signs of good breeding, ties to aristocracy, art, and spirituality. Every day objects like spoons and storage boxes are decorated and imbued with spiritual power and historical beliefs. Tlingit society is divided into the Raven and the Eagle. They portray this by heraldic crests, totem poles, canoes, feast dishes, house posts, weavings, jewelry and other types of art.

Tlingits were animists, and hunters ritually purifiedthemselves before hunting animals. Shamans, primarily male, cured diseases, influenced weather, aided in hunting, predicted the future, and protected people against witchcraft. Many Tlingit have been converted to Orthodox Christianity, especially Russian Orthodox. The Tlingit language is spoken by the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska and Western Canada. It is a branch of the Na-Dene language family. It is well known not only for its complex grammar and sound system, but also for using certain phonemes unheard in almost any other language.

Tlingit culture is thought to have originated approximately 800 years ago near the mouths of the Skeena and Nass Rivers. They came in contact with Russian explorers in 1741, and contracted smallpox and other diseases. The typical fod of Tlingits is salmon, seal, halibut, seaweed, wild beries, hering, and eulachon. They also hunt der, bear, mountain goats, and other small animals.

On earth, God has produced many kinds of people worldwide. One group is the Tlingit people. They are made in the image of God, like ourselves. Let us honor and respect and love these and all people. May God bless YOU.

Share YOUR experiences and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


  • I'm glad you are back. I've missed reading your blog over the last 2 weeks.


    By Blogger Burnt Ribs, at 7:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home