Tlingit - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Early records suggest that the Tlingit believed in a creator, Kah-shu-goon-yah, whose name was sacred and never mentioned above a whisper. This primordial grandfather, or "divisible-rich-man," controlled the sun, moon, stars, and daylight in addition to creating all living things. Little more is known of him. The sacred past centers upon Raven (cultural hero, benefactor, trickster, and rascal) who was credited with organizing the world in its present form and in initiating many Tlingit customs. Raven was never represented, symbolized, or made equal with the supreme being who transcended Tlingit legends. The Tlingit inhabited a world filled with spirits, or jek. These spirits could manifest their power through individuals, animals, or things. Since every material object or physical force could be inhabited by a spirit, Tlingit were taught to respect everything in the universe. The penalty for disrespect was the loss of ability to obtain food. Properly purified persons could acquire spirit power for curing illnesses, for protection in warfare, for success in obtaining wealth, and for ceremonial prerogatives. Each Tlingit had a mortal and an immortal spirit.

Religious Practitioners. Two options open to youths were to seek good power and help the community or to seek evil power and threaten the community. Every Tlingit had a personal guardian spirit, or tu-kina-jek. Spirit doctors, or ichet, received more powerful spirits and therefore could treat the sick with herbs, discern the presence of evil, predict the future, and protect the community from evil forces. Witches, or nukw-sati, sought evil power and used it to harm others.

Ceremonies. Dancing societies never gained a major foothold in Tlingit society as they did in neighboring Northwest Coast tribes. The Tlingit sought their power primarily through their clan spirit doctor whom they trusted to help and not to harm them. Politicoreligious ceremonies called potlatches, or koolex, marked significant events in the life of the clan and its members. Sacred songs, dances, symbols, and stories accompanied all changes in social stature, political leadership, and ceremonial objects within the clan.

Arts. Carving of house posts, heraldic screens, chiefs' hats, chiefs' staffs, and weaving of Chilkat blankets were highly acclaimed. Wood-carvers, metalworkers, and blanket weavers continue to use their traditional clan symbols ( kotea ) to indicate ownership and identity.

Medicine. Every family possessed a basic knowledge of herbs and principles of hygiene and for the most part were medically self-sufficient. Occasionally, a spirit doctor, who possessed superior knowledge of herbal medicines and special spirit power, was called in for difficult cases after household remedies failed. Contemporary Tlingit do not hesitate to consult modern medical facilities when the need arises.

Death and Afterlife. Spirits of the dead traveled to the appropriate level of heaven commensurate with their moral conduct in this life. Morally respectable people went to the highest heaven, Kiwa-a, a realm of happiness; moral delinquents went to a second level, or Dog Heaven, Ketl-kiwa, a place of torment. Individuals remained in the afterworld for a period of time and then returned to this world as a reincarnation of some deceased maternal relative.

User Contributions:

tlingit eat what food? why don't u post about music or game ,custom,cloth,food?
What do most Tlingits do for fun like what kind of fun things do they do ?
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We eat hooligan oil, gink, herring eggs and lots of salmon. We love to enjoy our lands with activities like hunting, fishing and enjoying nature all together.
Is sweat a common practice and or what are the regular spiritual practices
What religion do they practice today? or do most still practice their traditional religion?
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When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
-The declaration of idependence
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