Tlingit Tribes and Clans conference history bound
February 10, 1993
The Conference of Tlingit Tribes and Clans is set for May 5-8,1993 in Klukwan and Haines. The conference will include Tlingits from Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.
Volunteer committees have been organized in Klukwan, Haines,Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau to’ plan for the conference. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska will serve as sponsor of the conference. The Chilkat Indian Village and the Chilkoot Indian Association will serve as conference hosts.
Special invited guests will include the Tagish, Tahltan, Kwakuitl-TlingIt and Nishga Tsimshian of British Columbia, the Tutchone of the Yukon Terri- tory, the Tsimshian of Metlakatla and the Alaska Haida.
The purpose of the conference is to document customs and traditions of the respective Tlingit tribes and clans. Scholars generally agree that some 70 clans and either 17 or 18 tribes existed circa 1890. No contemporary genealogy of Tlingit clans and clan houses exists.
The conference will provide a forum for contemporary clan leaders to speak for the record and to present in-depth genealogical records. Participants will also confirm, update or correct existing documentation on Tlingit social organization. As I mentioned in an earlier column, George Emmons’ unpublished manuscript, “‘The History of Tlingit Tribes and Clans,” will serve as a key reference.
The conference will also provide a forum for scholars to make formal presentations on such subjects as Tlingit genealogies, toponyms (i.e., place names), linguistic challenges, documentation of Tlingit traditions, clan ownership rights and recommendations on museum repatriation policies. A long-term goal of conference organizers is to compile a comprehensive census by clan and’ clan house affiliation.
The conference format will be loosely based on Tlingit Language Workshop of the early ’70s — it will be a working conference. There will be general and plenary sessions, workshops, and time will be reserved for performances and ceremonies.
Invited presenters will include Dr. Jeff Leer of the Alaska Native Language Center of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Dr. Leer will speak on problems of translation and documentation of Tlingit place names. Nora Dauenhauer of Sealaska Heritage Foundation will speak on documentation of stories, names and biographies.
Dr. Steve Langdon (better known as Trajan Langdon’s dad), will speak on documentation of customary and traditions of subsistence resources. Harold Jacobs will speak on documenting clan house custodians, ownership of clan crests and recommendations on museum repatriation policies. Bessie Cooley of the Yukon Territory’s Aboriginal Language Service will speak on the Inland Tlingit genealogy project.
Maria Williams of the Alaska State Council on the Arts will speak on contemporary Native dances, Richard Dauenhauer of Sealaska Heritage Foundation will speak on problems relating to hearing, pronouncing and spelling Tlingit and developing a Tlingit songbook. Herb Hope will speak on documenting the Kiks.adi survival march of 1804. Richard Jackson will speak on the Tongass Tribe’s Chief Johnson pole rededication project of 1889.
Sergei Kan will present a comprehensive, annotated Tlingit source bibliography. Sergei and his family emigrated from Russia to the U.S. in 1974. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston University in 1976, an M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1978 and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1982.
Kan is employed as an associate professor of anthropology and Native American studies at Dartmouth College.
I met Sergei in Sitka in 1979. He was doing fieldwork for what turned out to be his Ph.D. While in Sitka (and even after his return to Chicago), he contributed a number of articles to “Neek,” the newsletter of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska. His articles were translations from the Russian writings of Ivan Veniaminov, Anatolii Kamenskii and others.
Sergei has authored a number of articles on various aspects of Tlingit culture over the last 10 years. His book, “Symbolic Immortality: The Tlingit Potlatch of the Nineteenth Century,” was ‘published by the Smithsonian Institute Press in 1989. It received the Before-Columbus Foundation American Book Award in 1990.
My favorite Kan writings are those that address Tlingit Christianity during the missionization period will of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These articles include “Russian Orthodox Brotherhoods among the Tlingit,” (1985), “Memory Eternal,” Russian Orthodoxy and the Tlingit Mortuary Cycle,” (1987), and the Russian Orthodox Missions,” (1988).
The subject of Tlingit Christianity has been addressed by less than a handful of ethnographers and historians. It is an important subject because Tlingit Christians laid the basis for all of the modern Native organizations in Southeast Alaska. Tlingit Christians organized the Alaska Native Brotherhood in1912 and the Alaska Native Sisterhood in the early 1920s.
Kan has been working on the Tlingit Source Bibliography for more than a year. The bibliography, says Kan, “… will consist of both published and unpublished works and will cover the entire Tlingit history from the earliest European accounts of the culture to the present. The annotation will assist the reader in selecting needed materials and becoming aware of the author’s biases.”
Kan’s bibliography will also include materials from research such as the late William Nelson’s account of the life of his clan uncle Eli Katanook (a founder of the Alaska Native Brotherhood) and the story of the Russian Orthodox Church in Killisnoo and Angoon that Kan recorded from the late Jimmy George in 1979.