Oh Lord, I rejoice in your salvation! Your grace, your mercy,
they shine upon me like the sun above. You have comforted
me in my darkest hour, held me close when the dark creatures
circled around me. Your staff has guided me through the lethal
wilderness, to home with You, where I belong. Oh Lord, comfort
those who comfort me, may their Blessings be great, may
their Earthly lives be long, and may their happiness in you
be boundless, forever and ever. Amen.
Far to the north, in the vast forests of Alaska, there lies a place that is beautiful, remote, but strangely comforting and homely. This is the land of the Tlingit.
"There is an old story that says how some strange people came from the western ocean. Among them were two sisters. They landed on Dall Island in Southeastern Alaska. There the sisters met and married men whose people were coming down the rivers from interior North America. One sister-went with her family to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Her children grew and multiplied into the Haida Nation. The other sister went with her family to Prince of Wales Island. She became the ancestress or Mother of the Tlingit Nation." (The Proud Chilkat by Brendan and Lauri Larson. 1977.)
The exact orgin of the Tlingit people is not known, however, some of the art forms and physical features of the Tlingit are very similar to those of other peoples in the Pacific Rim. Sometime about 300 years ago, several Tlingit clans from from Prince of Wales Island, the Stikine River Valley, the Nass River Valley and Kupreanof Island traveled further north and established settlements at Klukwan-the Mother Village; Kalwaltu; Yandestaki; and Chilkoot Lake. Other camps were Taiyasanka Harbor, Tanani, the mainland near Sullivan Island and Dyea. These settlements, situated in Southeastern Alaska, provided abundant natural resources for the Tlingit. The forests of Southeast Alaska supplied shelter, game and wild berries while the ocean was a vast storehouse of fish and sea mammals. Because of the abundant food and products, the Tlingit spent relatively little time surviving, therefore were able to spend much of their time on perfecting their craft skills and trade. Thanks to the ingenuity and industrious nature of the Tlingit, they were able to create a massive trade empire that streched from Alaska to Canada and as far south as Northern California. The vast Tlingit empire was second only to the Inca empire in the south.
White influence has been relatively slow to come to the Tlingit. Only in 1879 did the Tlingits ask for Dr. Sheldon Jackson to establish a mission in Tlingit land. The site for the mission itself was chosen at Dei shu (which means "The end of the trail" -It was named this because while traveling from the Chilkat River to Lynn Canal, the people docked their canoes across the neck of the peninsula and present location of Haines. This saved them a 20 mile paddle around the Chilkat Peninsula.)
In 1881 Presbyterian missionaries, Rev. and Mrs. Eugene Willard, first brought the Word of God to Chilkat country, further helping the Tlingit along in their spiritual journeys, towards Christ, but never forgetting or abandoning their Tribal Traditions.
The Tlingit follow a code of values that have changed little since time beyond remembering. These values are the cornerstone of Tlingit culture and life. They are as follows:
Respect For self and others, including elders. Remember our Native traditions, our families, sharing, loyalty, pride, and loving children.
Sense of humility
Care of human body
Copyright 2000, Karl