Sealaska Heritage


Research and Publications


Sealaska Heritage encourages scholarship of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. Its archive, library and ethnographic and art collections are available to the public for study. We also sponsor a Visiting Scholars Program to provide logistical support to researchers (please read our Research Policy). In addition, institute staff conducts its own research on topics pertinent to Native cultures and has published many books, including children's books. It also publishes the Box of Knowledge series, consisting of essays, reports, and books that institute considers should be made available as a contribution to studies on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures, history and languages. 


Box of Knowledge Series


Ḵáa Eetí G̱aax̱í - The Last Cry: A Review of the Southeast Alaska Native Mortuary ComplexThe principle of dualism dominates Tlingit and Haida societies and is evident in the moiety system in which they are divided between Eagles and Ravens. The core cultural value of Wooch Yáx̱(social and spiritual balance) requires reciprocity between opposite moieties and clans. This reciprocity is clearly evident in the mortuary complex, with the opposite side performing various acts of ceremonial service for the grieving clan. In this paper, Sealaska Heritage President Dr. Rosita Ḵaaháni Worl provides a brief review of Tlingit memorial rites based on her own experiences and drawing on the work of other Southeast Alaska Native scholars. Published by Sealaska Heritage in 2022. $10, paperback. (Buy)

Southeast Alaska Native Cultural Memorial Ceremonies Manual: Through Tlingit and Haida memorial ceremonies the loss of a clan member is acknowledged and strength and healing are offered in reciprocal speeches. These ceremonies are the principal cultural and spiritual settings in which oratory occurs. This instructional manual was developed by Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Council of Traditional Scholars and SHI President Dr. Rosita Ḵaaháni Worl to provide a guide for younger clan leaders and spokespersons. It includes an overview of traditional oratory and key components of traditional ceremonies. Published by Sealaska Heritage in 2022. $10, paperback. (Buy)

The Crests of Tlingit Clans: Crests are the most important symbols of the history and identity of Tlingit clans, acquired by ancestors in the ancient past and representing crucial encounters with animal persons and spiritual beings that determine the unique identity and character of clan members. This collection of first-person narratives about how different Tlingit clans acquired specific crest designs was prepared from transcripts of oral histories, interviews, videos, and speeches given by clan leaders and clan spokespersons representing the clans whose crests are described. The purpose of the publication is to provide images of clan crests for which duplication by non-clan members is a violation of Tlingit customary laws and practices. Published by Sealaska Heritage in 2022. $10, paperback. (Buy)

A Life Painted in Yarn: A Biography of Tlingit Chilkat Weaver Clara Newman Benson: This essay by Zachary Jones, Ph.D., provides the first biography of Tlingit Chilkat weaver Clara Newman Benson of Klukwan, Alaska, and attributes her artistic creations. Benson was a significant weaver of her day and prolific producer of Chilkat weavings that function as ceremonial objects within the Tlingit community. Establishing her place in Alaska's history and art history is one goal of the study, as well as adding content to the body of scholarship on historic Alaskan women. Published by Sealaska Heritage in 2022. $10, paperback. (Buy)

National Recognition of the Traditional Cultural Significance of X'unáx̱i (Indian Point): This paper brings together three essays by Dr. Rosita Worl, Dr. Thomas Thornton, and Dr. Chuck Smythe that document the historic and decades-long battle to protect Juneau's Indian Point, near Auke Bay, Alaska, considered to be a sacred site to Native people. The saga that began in 1959 with a proposal to develop the site and culminated in 2016, when SHI prevailed in an effort to list it the National Register of Historic Places, making it the first traditional cultural property in Southeast Alaska to be placed on the register. The case offers a clear lesson that can be learned or affirmed: that we as Native Americans view the protection of our sacred sites as essential, and we will avail ourselves of every mechanism to shelter them, wrote SHI President Rosita Worl, Ph.D. “We are not apologetic that our cultural beliefs may conflict with Western values or stand in the way of progress or the construction of a new facility. Our cultural values must be interpreted and applied on their own merit and not defined or structured in the context of national laws or needs,” she wrote. Published by Sealaska Heritage in 2022. $12, paperback.(Buy)

Doing Battle with the Halibut People: The Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Halibut Hook: The most comprehensive resource ever published on traditional northern Northwest Coast halibut hooks, this book delves deeply into the engineering, use, and spiritual dimensions of traditional northern Northwest Coast halibut hooks. The cultural and ecological knowledge in the book came mainly from a number of expert Tlingit fishermen and traditional scholars, who generously shared the knowledge received from their fathers and grandfathers, as well as learned through their own experiences. Those individuals included Jon Rowan, Mike Douville, Robert George, Thomas George and Webster Demmert of Klawock; Charles Jack, Thomas Jack and Ken Grant of Hoonah; David Katzeek of Juneau (formerly of Klukwan); and Ted Valle of Yakutat. Traditional scholars who participated included Clarence Jackson and Dr. Walter Soboleff. Dr. Steve Langdon, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Alaska Anchorage, conducted the majority of the interviews. Written by Chuck Smythe, Ph.D., published by Sealaska Heritage in 2018, and updated in 2022. $20, paperback. (Buy

The Distribution of Subsistence Herring Eggs from Sitka Sound, Alaska: This book recommends major changes to the way the State of Alaska manages the sac roe herring fishery in Sitka Sound and predicts dire outcomes for the ancient subsistence herring roe fishery located there, which supports people across the state and Pacific Northwest, if things do not change. The book also touts the enormous, wide-ranging social and ecological benefits of Pacific herring from Sitka Sound and the unique Alaskan subsistence economy and ecosystem services which depend on their production and distribution. The report finds that spawning populations of herring outside of Sitka Sound have been depleted by commercial reduction and sac roe fishing and that the role of Sitka herring as a keystone subsistence resource and foundation forage fish for salmon, sea mammals and other fish and wildlife in the marine food web should be a matter of public policy concern, review and reform. Written by Tom Thornton, Ph.D. and published by Sealaska Heritage in 2019.  $20, paperback. (Buy)

Tlingit Law, American Injustice, and the Destruction of Tlingit Villages: The Tlingit had a highly developed system of law. Tlingit law is based on a group orientation, rather than the individualistic system in American law. The entire clan is responsible for any wrong-doing committed by any individual clan member. When laws were broken, and if conflicts were not resolved to restore peace, the consequence would be violence as clans protected their claims to property and demanded compensation for insults, injuries or worse. The death of a clan member, purposeful or accidental, required the offending clan to offer the life of an individual of equal status, or payment in goods in an amount acceptable to the injured clan. If the death was caused by a non-Native, the clan would seek a payment of restitution and in some cases would take the life of a non-Native as compensation. Such actions were considered legal under Tlingit law. Bombardments of the Tlingit villages of Kake, Angoon, and Wrangell resulted from such differences in legal systems.  Written by SHI President Dr. Rosita Worl, an anthropologist, who is Tlingit of the Shangukeidí clan. Published by Sealaska Heritage in 2020.  $8, paperback. (Buy)

Aas Ḵwáani, People of the Trees: Ancient Ceremonial Rites: Over the course of at least 10,000 years of continuous occupation of this region, the Tlingit People developed close relationships with the environment, and accepted that everything has a spirit. They, along with the Haida and Tsimshian, developed practices and ceremonies recognizing the spiritual relationship they have with the land, including the Tree People. Tree ceremonies continue to be practiced today to ensure the sustainability of the forests and provide benefits for future generations. Written by SHI President Dr. Rosita Worl, an anthropologist, who is Tlingit of the Shangukeidí clan. Published by Sealaska Heritage in 2020.  $8, paperback. (Buy)

The Significance of Sharing Resources in Sustaining Indigenous Alaskan Communities and Cultures: Indigenous Alaskan societies have existed and flourished for more than 10,000 years, building sophisticated regional adaptations utilizing natural resources available to them. Indigenous Alaskans depended and continue to depend on annual harvests of fish, wildlife, birds, and plants for food and other uses. They developed social and cultural systems to provide for the well-being of the group and its members through various institutions and practices. Their spiritual systems were based on beliefs in the essential similarity of and interconnectedness of humans and other species that respected and sought to sustain the continuous return of the species on which they depended. As a central value and practice characteristic of all Indigenous Alaskan societies, sharing subsistence resources was and is a foundation of Indigenous life and livelihood. This paper describes and discusses the position of sharing in Indigenous Alaskan societies and identifies its significance in sustaining Indigenous Alaskan communities and maintaining Indigenous Alaskan cultures. Written by Steve Langdon, Ph.D. and published by Sealaska Heritage in 2021. $15, paperback. (PDF)

Determination of Alaska Native Status under the Marine Mammal Protection ActThe indigenous people of Alaska, known now collectively as Alaska Natives, face many complex issues in the 21st century. Some of these issues are the result of federal legislation that has defined and constrained Alaska Natives in various ways while creating institutions to address the special relationship between indigenous Alaskans and the federal government. Among the most difficult of the issues is establishing who is an Alaska Native because the term is defined differently for various purposes under federal legislation. Who is an Alaska Native, how does one know, and who decides is also critically important to establishing who is eligible to hunt marine mammals and create traditional handicrafts from marine mammal materials under the regulatory definitions of Alaska Native that have been adopted by federal agencies to implement the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The MMPA regulatory definitions emphasize 1/4 blood quantum as the primary criteria for identifying an Alaska Native. Written by Steve Langdon, Ph.D. and published by Sealaska Heritage in 2021. $15, paperback. (Buy)


Cultural Resources

Haa Léelk'w Hás Aaní Saax'ú: Our Grandparents' Names on the Land: This landmark book documents more than 3,000 Native place names and their location in Southeast Alaska. Nearly 20 years in the making, it is the most comprehensive study of its kind. It was complied by Dr. Thomas Thornton in collaboration with hundreds of people, including area tribes and Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. The vast majority of the place names in the book are of Tlingit origin, but there are also Haida, Tsimshian, Eyak, Chugach and Athabaskan names. Published by Sealaska Heritage in association with the University of Washington Press in 2012. Winner of the Alaska Historical Society's 2012 Contributions to Alaska History Award and the Alaska LIbrary Association's Alaskana Award. $34, paperback. (Buy)


Tlingit Oral Literature Series

Haa Shuka, Our Ancestors: Tlingit Oral Narratives, Vol. 1: Eleven classic stories by 13 elders. Includes Naatsilanei (the origin of the killer whale), The Strong Man, The Woman Who Married the Bear, Kaats' (The Man Who Married the Bear), and two stories about the coming of the white man. Features Tlingit texts with facing English translations. Edited by Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer (left). Vol. 1, Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature, University of Washington Press, 1987, 532 pp., illustrations, notes, biographies, bibliography. "With texts and a thorough introduction to their format, oral style, and cultural context, a lengthy explanation of  Tlingit phonetics and grammar, extensive historical and linguistic notes, and brief biographies... Haa Shuká is simultaneously a work of literature, a contribution to scholarship, and an act of homage to the Tlingit elders who contributed to the project for the sake of their descendants."  $38. Paperback. (Buy)

Haa Tuwunáagu Yís, for Healing Our Spirit, Vol. 2: Have you ever wondered what's going on at a memorial, sometimes called "potlatch" or "party?" Haa Tuwunáagu Yís, for Healing our Spirit is a study of the process and performance of a memorial. Haa Tuwunáagu Yís is the first publication of Tlingit oratory recorded in performance. It features Tlingit texts with facing English translations and detailed annotations, photographs of the orators and the settings in which the speeches are delivered, biographies of the Elders, and a glossary. There are 32 speeches by 21 Tlingit Elders. Most were taped between 1968 and 1988, but two speeches were recorded on wax cylinders by the Harriman Expedition in Sitka in 1899, and are the oldest known sound recordings of Tlingit. Edited by Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer (left). Vol. 2, Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature, University of Washington Press, 1990, 526 pp., illustrations, bibliography. Winner of the 1991 American Book Award! $32. Paperback. (Buy)

Haa Kusteeyí, Our Culture: Tlingit Life Stories, Vol. 3: An introduction to Tlingit social and political history. The book features the biographies and life histories of more than 50 men and women, most born between 1880 and 1910, and includes a special section on the founders of the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB). The lives depicted in this volume show how individual Native people both shaped and were shaped by their time and place in history. To the fullest extent possible, oral and written material from the subjects and their families has been incorporated, so the book includes written research contributions by more than 20 people, and additional information from many friends and relatives. The appendices feature Tlingit texts with facing English translations, and previously unpublished documents, including material from the National Archives and the minutes from the historically important 1929 Haines ANB Convention, when ANB decided to pursue a land claims settlement, adopted the ANB and ANS koogéinaa and established the Executive Committee in the ANB Constitution. Edited by Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer (left). Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature, vol. 3, (University of Washington Press, 1994), 924 pp., 204 photographs, bibliography. $35. Paperback. (Buy)

Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká: Russians in Tlingit America, The Battles of Sitka 1802 and 1804: A major book on historic battles between the Russians and Tlingits in the early 19th century. This is the 4th volume in the award-winning series, Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature, edited by Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Richard Dauenhauer. The book explores an era from the 1790s through 1818 when Russians expanded into Southeast Alaska to take control of the Northwest Coast fur trade. The Tlingit people resisted the incursion into their ancestral homeland and events culminated in two historic battles between the Russians and Tlingits in 1802 and 1804. At the heart of the book are never-before published recordings by the National Park Service of Tlingit elders telling oral histories of the battles. The recordings were made in the 1950s by Kiks.ádi elder Sally Hopkins and Kaagwaantaan elder Alex Andrews, who was a child of the Kiks.ádi. The book was conceived in the 1980s when Kiks.ádi elders asked the Dauenhauers to transcribe, translate, and publish the tapes, and the Sealaska Heritage Board approved the project. The Dauenhauers were able to compare the recordings to eye-witness accounts by Russians translated into English by Lydia Black, a scholar who worked on the book until her death in 2007. Published by Sealaska Heritage Institute in association with the University of Washington Press. Winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. $60, Hardcover. $35, Paperback. (Buy)