Sharing Our Knowledge: The Tlingit and Their Coastal Neighbors

Sharing Our Knowledge: The Tlingit and Their Coastal Neighbors

Sharing Our Knowledge: The Tlingit and Their Coastal Neighbors

Sharing Our Knowledge: The Tlingit and Their Coastal Neighbors

Synopsis

Sharing Our Knowledge brings together Native elders, tradition bearers, educators, cultural activists, anthropologists, linguists, historians, and museum professionals to explore the culture, history, and language of the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska and their coastal neighbors. These interdisciplinary, collaborative essays present Tlingit culture, as well as the culture of their coastal neighbors, not as an object of study but rather as a living heritage that continues to inspire and guide the lives of communities and individuals throughout southeast Alaska and northwest British Columbia.
This volume focuses on the preservation and dissemination of Tlingit language, traditional cultural knowledge, and history from an activist Tlingit perspective. Sharing Our Knowledge also highlights a variety of collaborations between Native groups and individuals and non-Native researchers, emphasizing a long history of respectful, cooperative, and productive working relations aimed at recording and transmitting cultural knowledge for tribal use and promoting Native agency in preserving heritage. By focusing on these collaborations, the contributors demonstrate how such alliances have benefited the Tlingits and neighboring groups in preserving and protecting their heritage while advancing scholarship at the same time.

Excerpt

Sergei Kan

Most of the papers appearing in this volume were first presented at the 2007 Conference of Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit Tribes and Clans, which took place in Sitka, Alaska, March 21–25, 2007. That conference was a continuation of a project initiated in the late 1980s by Andrew Hope iii (Xaastanch). As Andy wrote two decades ago (Juneau Empire, September 23, 1992: 2), “The original premise for the conference was to reaffirm the customs and traditions of the Alaska Tlingit and the Kaigani Haida clans.” Eventually Alaska and British Columbia Tsimshians, Inland Tlingits, as well as the Tagish, Tutchone, and Tahltan Athabascan peoples from British Columbia and the Yukon Territory were invited as well to what became the first of a series of “clan conferences.” Held in Haines and Klukwan in 1993, the first clan conference was a tremendous success and was followed by several others: in Sitka in 1995 and again in 1997 as well as a smaller one in Ketchikan in 1995 dedicated solely to language preservation. None of these subsequent gatherings, however, matched the initial one in terms of the number of participants. According to the organizers, close to five hundred people signed the attendance book at the 1993 conference. the format for the meeting developed by Andy and his colleagues and adopted by the Haines-Klukwan conference continued to be followed at all of the subsequent clan conferences including that of 2007: a combination of plenary and smaller sessions and workshops in the morning and the afternoon, followed by Native dances, poetry readings, and other cultural performances in the evening. Most important, the 1993 clan conference differed from a regular academic one by virtue of the fact that, as Andy Hope wrote in 2000, “Probably for the first time ever, practitioners came together with scholars as equals to discuss their mutual knowledge of and experience with the cultures indigenous to this part of the world” (10, italics mine).

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