Tlingit Indians

A history and description of the Tlingit Indians of Alaska.

The Tlingit are also known as Kolosh and are a Native Amercian people that belong to the Southeastern coast and coastal islands of Alaska. The Tlingit Indians and the Haida are closely related in culture. Both of these tribes are governed by CCTHITA or the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

The Tlingit's culture has been molded by the conditions of the Alaskan area. The coast of Alaska is covered with mountains. The climate is temperate and humid. The forests are populated with animal life and seas are bountiful as well. The Tlingit Indians survived by fishing, hunting, and gathering.

The Tlingit Indians lived in three groups including the Yehl or Raven, Goch or Wolf, and Nehadi or Eagle. Since the Nehadi were a small group, some researchers leave out this group of the Tlingit. Each of these groups usually consisted of over twenty clans. The clans may have contained two or more villages which was further divided into house groups which contained a number of families.

The clans of the Tlingit Indians and the family groups were given their status based on the wealth, character, and ancestors of their members. The oldest male was the head of the family group. The family head with the highest status was the leader of the clan. There were no village leaders and disputes were mediated by the clan heads.

The Tlingit Indians are known for their elaborate ceremonies. One of the more well known ceremonies was the potlatch which was usually performed out of respect for the dead. These ceremonies traditionally lasted for four days. They consisted of dances, songs, performances, gifts, and a feast which were hosted by one group for another.

The Tlingit commonly encountered explorers looking for the Northwest Passage. As the fur trade began to boom, Russian traders and trappers started to settle in the area around 1775. Throughout the next century the Tlingit Indians did not encounter any major conflicts with the Russians.

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