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The Tlingit are a Native American group from the Pacific Northwest. They live in the United States (in the state of Alaska) and in Canada (British Columbia and Yukon). They speak the Tlingit language. In their language, Tlingit means "people of the tides."

The Tlingit get their food through hunting, gathering, and fishing. They are a matrilineal society. That means property is passed down from a mother to her children.


The Tlingit organized themselves into tribes, which they called Ḵwáan.

Tribes or Ḵwáan

Tlingit tribe Translation Village or Community location English names
G̱alyáx̱ Ḵwáan Salmon Stream Tribe Yakataga-Controller Bay area Kaliakh
Xunaa Ḵáawu Tribe or People from the Direction of the North Wind Hoonah Hoonah people
S'awdáan Ḵwáan From S'oow (jade) daa (around), aan (land/country/village) because the bay is the color of jade all around. Sumdum Sumdum
Tʼaḵjik.aan Ḵwáan: Coast Town Tribe northern Prince of Wales Island Tuxekan
Laax̱aayík Kwáan: Inside the Glacier People Yakutat area Yakutat
Tʼaaḵu Ḵwáan: Geese Flood Upriver Tribe Taku Taku Tlingit, Taku people
Xutsnoowú (a.k.a. Xudzidaa) Ḵwáan Brown Bear Fort a.k.a. Burnt Wood Tribe Angoon Hootchenoo people, Hoochenoo, Kootznahoo
Hinyaa Ḵwáan Tribe From Across The Water Klawock Henya
G̱unaax̱oo Ḵwáan Among The Athabascans Tribe Dry Bay Gunahoo people, Dry Bay people
Deisleen Ḵwáan: Big Sinew Tribe Teslin Teslin Tlingit, Teslin people, Inland Tlinkit
Shee Tʼiká (a.k.a. Sheetʼká) Ḵwáan Outside Edge of a Branch Tribe Sitka Sitka, Shee Atika
Shtaxʼhéen Ḵwáan Bitter Water Tribe Wrangell Stikine people, Stikine Tlingit
Jilḵáat Ḵwáan From Chaal (food cache) xhaat (salmon) khwaan (dwellers): "Salmon Cache Tribe" Klukwan Chilkat people
Áa Tlein Ḵwáan Big Lake Tribe Atlin Taku River Tlingit, Inland Tlinkit
Ḵéex̱ʼ Kwáan The Opening of the Day (Dawn) Tribe a.k.a. The Town That Never Sleeps Kake Kake people
Taantʼa Ḵwáan Sea Lion Tribe Fort Tongass (formerly) & Ketchikan (today) Tongass people
Jilḵoot Ḵwáan Chilkoot Tribe Haines Chilkoot people
Áakʼw Ḵwáan Small Lake Tribe Auke Bay Auke people
Kooyu Ḵwáan Stomach Tribe Kuiu Island Kuiu people
Saanyaa Ḵwáan Southward Tribe Cape Fox Village (formerly) & Saxman (today) Saanya Kwaan, owns Saxman Corporation, which owns Cape Fox Corporation


The Tlingit have a very rich culture. They are famous for their totem poles. They incorporate art in every part of their lives. Their art has deep spiritual meaning.

Philosophy and religion

The Tlingit didn't write down their beliefs, but they do have a very complex philosophy on how they view the world.

They were animists. Their shamans did many things, such as curing diseases, helping hunters, and protecting people from evil.

In the 1880s, many Tlingit began to convert to Orthodox Christianity, which was introduced by the Russians. They clung to the Orthodox religion as Americans and Canadians came onto their land.

Today, young Tlingit are turning back to their traditional beliefs in order to regain a sense of identity as Tlingit.


The Tlingit have their own language, the Tlingit language. Their language has a very complex grammar and uses sounds that almost no other languages use.

However, most of them now speak English.


The Tlingit made their houses from cedar wood.


The Tlingit harvest food from the sea.

They also enjoy eating berries and meat from land animals.

Famous Tlingit people

  • Yeilxaak (unknown-1791), the first chief of Klukwan to be encountered by Europeans
  • X'unéi (unknown), a powerful Yakutat chief that went to war against Yeilxaak
  • Shotridge (1817–1887), a powerful chief and leader of the Chilkat Tlingits
  • Louis Shotridge (1883–1937), a Tlingit nobleman and American art collector, a grandson of the chief Shotridge
  • K'alyaan (1773-unknown), a chief and leader who led the Tlingits against the Russians at the Battle of Sitka
  • Debra Lekanoff, member of Washington State Legislature 2018
  • Nora Marks Dauenhauer (1927–2017), poet, author, and scholar
  • Byron Mallott (b. 1943), Lieutenant Governor of Alaska (2014–2018)
  • Larry McNeil (b. 1955), photographer
  • Tillie Paul (1863–1952), civil rights advocate and educator
  • William Paul (1885–1977), attorney
  • Elizabeth Peratrovich (1911–1958), civil rights advocate
  • Clarissa Rizal (1956–2016), Chilkat and Ravenstail weaver
  • Walter Soboleff (1908–2011), scholar, elder, and religious leader
  • Preston Singletary (b. 1963), glass artist
  • Jennie Thlunaut (ca. 1891–1986), Chilkat weaver
  • Ernestine Hayes (b. 1945), poet, memorist, and professor
  • Dino Rossi (b. 1959), politician
  • Martin Sensmeier (b. 1985), actor

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