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Tlingit - A tribe of seafaring Indians and totem pole makers who lived along the southern coast and islands of Alaska.  The Russian capital, Sitka, was on Tlingit land, as is the present state capital , Juneau.  The ports of the Tlingitindians figured prominently in the great Kondike gold rush.

The Tlingit were expert fishermen and sea hunters.  They put to sea in dugouts, some of them as long as sixty feet.  They built their houses of plank split from the great cedar trees along the coast, and in front of each house was an elaborately carved totem pole.  Totem poles were not made, however, until these Indians had received iron tools from the white man at about the beginning of the nineteenth century.

One of the odd customs of the Tlingit was the practicing of "potlatch," which meant the giving of a feast and the distribution of a large amount ot property.  At such special feasts after the death of one of their tribe, slaves and property were given away.  However, those who gave away property usually expected greater gifts in return.  A wealthy man, as a way of boasting of his wealth, might kill a slave or two.  Sometimes before a totem pole was placed in the ground a slave was killed and thrown into the hole.  Special clubs were used as "slave killers," and these are eagerly sought today by white collectors.

The Tlingit never had a real war with the white people.  Today the several thousand in Alaska are gradually adopting the ways of the whites.
 

Related Information within this Site
[ Eskimo ][ Potlatch ][ Slaves ][ Totem Poles