2002 fun histories

There are three major Indian tribes in Alaska, the largest tribe with some 12,000 members is the Athabascan. They live in interior Alaska and Canada, in arguably the harshest environment in the State.

On the south central coast near Juneau and off shore islands live the  Tlingit tribe with some 10,000 members.

South of Juneau on off shore islands near Ketchikan dwell the Haida tribe of about 1,000 members. South of Ketchikan down the Canadian coast and on the Queen Charlotte Islands dwells another Haida tribe with some 2,000 members, bringing tribal membership to 3,000. 

Another coastal tribe related to the Tlingit are the Tsimshian with about 2,000 members, and the smallest Eyak tribe with about fifty members.

If that were not complicated enough, the tribes collectively speak about twenty six dialects, and embrace to a greater or lesser degree the ways of the white man.

Most of the tribes are noted for famous accomplishments, Athabascans with the skills to survive for thousands of years in the harshest part of interior Alaska; The Tlingit tribe noted for it's world famous art, similar to the mask above and the totems on the left; Lastly the Haida, famous for building 70 foot canoes from giant red spruce, hunting whales in the past, and possessing the navigation skills to explore south to California.

The Indian tribes of Alaska are suffering death of language and death of culture, alcoholism in adults and loss of their youth to the big cities. We will briefly discuss some of the self help programs on this webpage.

On the left is the hulk of an old Haida canoe. These canoes were made from the giant Red Cedars found along the lower coast of Alaska. Each canoe was hollowed out from a single tree. 

These canoes ranged up to 70 feet long and the natives called them war canoes, but the large canoes were probably used to a greater extent  for hunting whales, and for moving the tribe from one camp to another during changing seasons.

To the left is a photograph of a Tlingit village near Juneau. It was taken about the year 1900. Name of the photographer is unknown, but some believe it was taken by explorer/naturalist Muir while he was on a tour of the Alaska native tribes.

 

Haida Indians Quoted and Credited Short Stories             Links To Other Native Resources

Haida... {hy'-duh^
The Haida are North American Indians living on the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia and on part of Prince of Wales Island, southeast Alaska, which some Haida groups invaded, probably early in the 18th century.

The Haida language belongs to the family of Nadene languages. Traditional Haida society was organized into many single matriclan villages composed of one to several house groups. Matriclans, headed by hereditary chiefs, were landowning and ceremonial units that were divided into Eagle and Raven subgroups (moieties).

Expert fishermen and seafarers, the Haida depended heavily on halibut, black cod, sea mammals, mollusks, and other sea species in addition to their freshwater salmon catches. The abundant red cedars were used to make huge dugout canoes, multifamily plank houses, numerous splendidly carved TOTEM poles as memorials and as portal poles, and carved boxes and dishes. Chiefs gave potlatches to guests of the opposite moiety, displaying hereditary crests and dances. Shamans wore masks indicative of their spirit powers in curing. Warfare with enemy tribes was frequent, for revenge, booty, and slaves.

In the early 19th century the aboriginal Haida population was about 8,000 on the Queen Charlotte Islands and 1,800 in Alaska; in the 1890s they numbered fewer than 1,500 as the result of disease introduced through Western contact. During this appalling population decline, Queen Charlotte Islands survivors assembled in multiclan villages, of which two remain, Masset and Skidegate. Alaskan Haida formed five multiclan villages, since merged (1911) at Hydaburg. In the mid-1980s the total Haida population was about 2,000.

PHILIP DRUCKER

Bibliography: Ruby, R. H., and Brown, J. A., A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest (1986); Steltzer, Ulli; Haida Potlatch (1985); van den Brink, J. H., The Haida Indians (1974).

 

Anthems

Tlingit National Anthem <http://cooday8.tripod.com/page1.htm> - as retold by Robert Willard Jr. (Raven/Beaver Clan Elder)

"Our story starts during the last great ice age in North America over 60, 000 years ago. Four Tlingit women swam under a Dangerous Glacier Ice Cavern for their people and helped found Southeast Alaska's Tlingit Nation. Our home since the beginning of human history and time has always been North America." - Shoowee Ka' (Eagle/Wolf Clan)