Chief Anotklosh of the Taku nation

Tlingit Indians

Tlingit Indians (literally Lingi`t). Signifying “people,” in their own language Also called:

  • Kolusehan, a name given to them as a linguistic family by Powell (I H4111, originally a Russian or Aleut term referring to the labrets worn by their women.

Tlingit Connections

The Tlingit were originally constituted into win linguistic stock by Powell, but show resemblances to the Athapascan dialects and to Haida which have induced Sapir (1915) to class the three together as the Na-déné. The exact nature of the relationship is still disputed.

Tlingit Location

Map of Tlingit-speakers and neighboring peoples
Map of Tlingit-speakers and neighboring peoples

All of the coast and islands of Alaska from Yakutat Bay inclusive southward with the exception of the southern end Prince of Wales and Dall Islands and Annette Island, through these latter have been alienated from them only in comparatively recent times.

Tlingit Subdivisions and Tlingit Villages

  • Auk, on Stephens Passage and Douglas and Admiralty Islands, including the following villages:
    • Anchguhlsu, opposite the north end of Douglas Island.
    • Tsantikihin, on the site of the present Juneau.
  • Chilkat, about the head of Lynn Canal, including these villages:
    • Chilkoot, on the northeast arm of Lynn Canal.
    • Deshu, at the head of Lynn Canal.
    • Dyea, at the modern place of the same name.
    • Katkwaahltu, on Chilkat River about 6 miles from its mouth.
    • Klukwan, on Chilkat River 20 miles from its mouth.
    • Skagway, at the site of the modern town of that name at the head of Lynn Canal.
    • Yendestake, at the mouth of Chilkat River.
  • Gonaho, at the mouth of Alsek River.
  • Hehl, on Behm Canal.
  • Henya or Hanega, on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island between Tlevak Narrows and Sumner Strait, including the following villages:
    • Klawak, on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island.
    • Shakan, a summer village on the northwest coast of Prince of Wales Island.
    • Tuxican, on a narrow strait on the northwest coast of Prince of Wales Island.
  • Huna, on Cross Sound, encamping in summer northward beyond Lituya Bay, with these villages:
    • Akvetskoe, a summer village on Lituya Bay.
    • Gaudekan, the chief town, now usually called Huna, in Port Frederick on the north shore of Chichagof Island.
    • Hukanuwu, on the north side of Cross Sound between the mainland and Chichagof Island.
    • Klughuggue, given by Petroff (1884) as a town on Chichagof Island but probably identical with one given by Krause (1885) on the opposite mainland, and perhaps the same as Tlushashakian.
    • Kukanuwu, on the north side of Cross Sound.
    • Tlushashakian, on the north side of the west entrance to Cross Sound.
  • Hutsnuwu, on the west and south coasts of Admiralty Island, with these villages:
    • Angun, north of Hood Bay, Admiralty Island.
    • Killisnoo, on Killisnoo Island near Admiralty Island.
    • Nahltushkan, on Whitewater Bay, on the west coast of Admiralty Island.
  • Kake, on Kupreanof Island, the designation being sometimes extended to cover Kuiu and Sumdum, and including a village of the same name.
  • Kuiu, on Kuiu Island, with a village of the same name in Port Beauclerc.
  • Sanya, about Cape Fox, their village being called Gash, at Cape Fox.
  • Sitka, on the west coasts of Baranof and Chichagof islands, with these villages:
    • Dahet.
    • Keshkunuwu.
    • Kona.
    • Kushtahekdaan.
    • Old Sitka, a summer camp on Baranof Island.
    • Sitka, site of the modern town.
    • Tlanak.
    • Tluhashaiyikan, as indicated by the native word straight opposite Mount Edgecombe.
  • Silver Bay, a summer camp.
  • Stikine, on Stikine River and the neighboring coasts, with these villages:
    • Kahltcatlan, a place called also Old Wrangell.
    • Katchanaak, on the site of modern Wrangell.
    • Shakes’ Village, on Etolin Island.
    • Sumdum, at Port Houghton, the village and location being the same.
  • Taku, on Taku River and Inlet, Stevens Channel, and Gastineau Channel, with the following villages:
    • Sikanasankian, on Taku Inlet.
    • Takokakaan, at the mouth of Taku River, as the name itself implies.
    • Tongass, at the mouth of Portland Canal, on the north side, with a village of the same name on Tongass Island, Alexander Archipelago.
  • Yakutat, principally about Yakutat Bay but extending westward in later times to the mouth of Copper River, including these villages:
    • Chilkat, a village or group of villages on Controller Bay.
    • Gutheni, north of Dry Bay.
    • Hlahayik, on Yakutat Bay behind an island called Hlaha which gave it the name.
    • Yakutat, on Yakutat Bay.

Tlingit History

Chief Anotklosh of the Taku nation
Chief Anotklosh of the Taku nation. He wears a woven Chilkan blanket of cedar bark and mountain goat wool and a European-style cape, and holds a carved wooden bird rattle. Photograph by W.H. Case, ca. 1913, Juneau, Alaska

According to native tradition, some Tlingit families came into their present territories from the coast farther south while others entered from the interior. In 1741 Chirikoff and Bering discovered the Tlingit country, and they were soon followed by other Russian explorers as well as by explorers and traders from Mexico, England, France, and New England. Among the noteworthy events of this period was the visit of La Pérouse to Lituya Bay in 1786 and the tragic loss of two of his boats loaded with men in the tide rips at its entrance. In 1799 the Russians built a fort near the present Sitka. In 1802 the Sitka Indians rose upon this post, killed part of its inmates, and drove the rest away, but 2 years later Baranoff drove them from their fort in turn and established on its site a post which grew into the present Sitka, the capital successively of Russian America and Alaska Territory until 1906. Russian rule was so harsh that there were frequent outbreaks among the natives so long as the territory remained under their control. In 1836 to 1840 occurred a terrible epidemic of smallpox, brought up from the Columbia River, which swept away hundreds of Indians. In 1840 the Hudson’s Bay Company took a lease from the Russian American Company of all their lands between Cape Splicer and latitude 54° 40′ N. In 1867 the Tlingit were transferred will, the rest of the Alaskan people to the jurisdiction of the United States and since then they have been suffering ever more rapid transformation under the influences of western civilization.

Tlingit Population

Mooney (1928) estimated that there were 10,000 Tlingit in 1740. Veniaminoff (1840) gave 5,850 for the year l835, an enumeration made by Sir James Douglas 4 years later showed 5,455 exclusive of the Yakutat. In 1861 Lt. Wehrman of the Russian Navy reported 8,597 as the result of a census. Petroff (1884) in the census of 1880 gave 6,763, but the census of 1890 showed only 4,583, not counting the Tlingitized Ugalakmiut. The census of 1910 returned 4,426; that of 1920, 3,895; and that of 1930, 4,462.

Connection in which the Tlingit Indians have become noted

The Russian capital and the first American territorial capital Sitka was on Tlingit land, as is the later and present territorial capital Juneau. The ports of this tribe, especially those in the Chilkat country, figured prominently in the great Klondike rush.



Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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