M. Kelley/AGE Fotostock


The word Tlingit means “people.” Traditional Tlingit territory is the Southeastern Alaska panhandle, from Yakutat south to Ketchikan, and including the Alexander Archipelago, which consists of more than a thousand islands.

Population: Approximately 24,000 (as of 2016)  Language: Lingít


The Beaver Returns

Tlingit Language

Woman leans against a table that holds ceremonial blankets.
Icebreaker“Lgeik'i yóo xát duwasáakw. My name is Lgeik’i. It originates from Glacier Bay, where my family comes from. It’s the sound that the glacier makes right before it calves into the water.Soon I will be moving home to live in a language nest. Just Lingít every day, and no English. Myself, I’m a language learner. My children are very excited. It’s terrifying for me, truthfully. But my grandmother used to always say, "I gu.aa yáx̱ x̱'wán"—be strong, be brave."—Heather Powell (Lgeik’i) Tlingit | Lingít language and cultural educator, weaver
D. Finnin/© AMNH


From the Collections: Tlingit berry masher


Tlingit women would have used this masher to press summer berries into a flat “cake.” Similar to today’s nutrition bars, the berry cakes were then dried and packed into boxes for winter use. Another long-lasting recipe crushed fresh berries with salmon eggs and salmon grease.

This masher is from Tlingit territory in southeast Alaska.

AMNH E/936, acquired 1894


Indigenous Culture and the Capital City

From the Collections: Tlingit bent-cornered bear dish

Bear dish

Bentwood boxes are a Northwest Coast specialty. To make one, an artist takes a single wood board, notches it, steams it and bends it into shape. This one is in the form of a grizzly bear, a revered animal in Tlingit culture that is considered an ancestor by some family lines. Touch the image of the box to rotate it and see the bear’s carved sides and hindquarters.

This food dish is from the Haines area in Tlingit territory in southeast Alaska.

AMNH 19/1086, acquired 1869–1890

In Tlingit Territory

Then and Now

Wooden buildings line the sides of a road leading to a church. Cars and trucks drive through a downtown area with buildings in view on the sides of the road and a church in the distance.
(left) University of Washington, Special Collections, NA2577; (right) H. Smith Walker
(left) Decades before Alaska became part of the United States, colonial traders from Russia settled in the Kiks.adi Tlingit village of Sheet'ká. The Tlingit resisted, but in 1804, the Russians bombarded them, forcing a retreat. This 1900 image of Sitka shows St. Michael's Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church. (right) Fire destroyed the original St. Michael's Cathedral in 1966. The Orthodox church in Sitka's downtown today is a replica. Today Native people make up between 15 and 20 percent of the population of Sitka, including many descendants of its original residents.

From the Collections and Beyond