Place Based Education - Resourecs for Southeast Alaska Educators

Chilkat Spirit by Mike A. Jackson

Tlingit Land Rights, History and Tradition

Tlingit Elders Traditional Education Checklist
Originally published in "Beginning Tlingit", Sealaska Heritage Foundation, 1984
Compiled by Richard and Nora Dauenhauer
Based on the input and review of many elders
The Southeast Alaska Tribal College Elders Council formally adopted this checklist in October 2001.
SEATC Elders Council Members:

Arnold Booth, Metlakatla
Isabella Brady, Sitka
Nora Dauenhauer, Douglas
Dennis Demmert, Sitka
Lydia George, Angoon
Joe Hotch, Haines
Charles Natkong, Sr., Hydaburg
Marie Olson, Auke Bay
Gil Truitt, Sitka
Jim Walton, Juneau

(Do we have group photos of the Elders from education forums over the past few years?)

Part One

What are the most important knowledge and skills in Tlingit tradition that a person needs to know to be well educated in the tradition?

1. Self

Who am I?

Tlingit name
Moiety (Eagle or Raven)
Father's clan
Grandparent's clans
Names of my major clan crests
Names of my immediate family
House group
House groups of my ancestors

  1. Relating to Others

    Who are you?

    Protocol and diplomacy
    Clan system
    Concept of clan trust and clan ownership; at.óow
    Names of other clans
    Names of other people (Photos from Koo.éex')
    Crests of other clans
    History of all crests
    Extended family and community

    Memorials (Forty day Parties; Memorial Feasts,"Potlatch")

    ANB Protocol; Robert's Rules of Order


  2. Language

    How do we talk?

    Both Tlingit and English
    Careful speech
    Oratory (public speaking in traditional and contemporary settings; metaphor and simile)


  3. Literature and History

    What do we talk about?

    Songs (different types of songs)
    Stories ("Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature")
    Clan histories, legends, migrations, development


  4. Dancing (different types of dances)


  5. Special Art Forms

    (Both technical skills and concept of at.óow)
    Skin sewing
    Weaving (Photos of weavers/weaving)
    Silver Carving


  6. Survival: Use of the natural environment

    How do we live?

    Gathering Native food(photos from culture/science camps: Lydia at Dog Pt. in 1999)
    Putting up food (canning, jarring, freezing)
    Smoking fish and meat
    Various calendars (when the fish and game run)
    Traditional medicine; folk medicine


  7. Survival skills

    Boating safety
    Firearms safety
    Emergency survival on land and water
    Traditional and contemporary first aid
    Weather observation


  8. Fishing (technical skills)


  9. Hunting (technical skills)


11. Traditional technology

Boatmaking (photos of boats built by Tlingit boat builders: Princeton Hall, a canoe, etc.)
Taking care of a boat
Drum making
Halibut and salmon hook making
Fish traps

  1. Geography

    Place names in Tlingit and English (sample from the tribal resource atlas)
    Chart and map reading
    Clan lands
    Traditional land use
    Migration routes


  2. Traditional spirituality

    Relationship to the natural world
    (land plants, animals, fish)
    Relationship to the spiritual world
    How to speak to the natural and spiritual worlds
    Concept of at.óow (excerpt definition from Haa Tuwanaagu Yís)
    Spiritual dimensions of visual art, songs, dances
    Stories, and public speaking (excerpt from Haa Tuwanaagu Yís or Because WeCherish You)
    How to keep clean in body and spirit
    What to do before h8unting or fishing
    How to treat the kill or catch
    Fasting for spiritual power
    Respect for self and others


  3. Traditional taboos

    Don't be arrogant
    Don't brag
    Don't talk too much
    Don't speak badly about anything
    Don't insult your fellow beings
    Don't keep all of your first catch or kill
    Don't be greedyDon't insult fish, birds and wildlife


  4. "Manners"

    Discuss with Elders what "good manners" were and are for Tlingit culture. It is also interesting to notice where and how Tlingit manners and European manners may be in conflict with each other. For example, is it polite to burp? When do you say "thank you" at the dinner table?


Part Two

Where can a person learn these things?

  1. From parents and grandparents (photos of parents and relatives and teachers at Harborview?)
  2. From relatives (uncles, aunts, family)
  3. From other community members and Elders
  4. From materials and resources gathered and prepared by others:

    Sealaska Heritage Foundation
    Alaska Native Language Center
    Alaska Native Knowledge Network
    Tlingit Readers

  5. School programs



  1. This draft reflects all feed-back and input received from Tlingit Elders to date.
  2. Don't despair. It is difficult or impossible to know everything on this list. Probably no single Elder knew all of it. Also, keep in mind that this was the survival for the ancestors of the younger Native people of SE Alaska, whereas economic survival for most today relies mainly on "job" skills. Many people today "get up before the Raven" to get kids off to school and get off to jobs.

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