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Tlingit Indians

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Tlingit Indians (literally Lingi`t). Signifying “people,” in their own language Also called:
Kolusehan, a name given to them as a linguistic family by Powell (I H4111, originally a Russian or Aleut term referring to the labrets worn by their women.

Tlingit Connections. The Tlingit were originally constituted into win linguistic stock by Powell, but show resemblances to the Athapascan dialects and to Haida which have induced Sapir (1915) to class the three together as the Na-déné. The exact nature of the relationship is still disputed.

Tlingit Location. All of the coast and islands of Alaska from Yakutat Bay inclusive southward with the exception of the southern end Prince of Wales and Dall Islands and Annette Island, through these latter have been alienated from them only in comparatively recent times.

Tlingit Subdivisions and Tlingit Villages

Tlingit History. According to native tradition, some Tlingit families came into their present territories from the coast farther south while others entered from the interior. In 1741 Chirikoff and Bering discovered the Tlingit country, and they were soon followed by other Russian explorers as well as by explorers and traders from Mexico, England, France, and New England. Among the noteworthy events of this period was the visit of La Pérouse to Lituya Bay in 1786 and the tragic loss of two of his boats loaded with men in the tide rips at its entrance. In 1799 the Russians built a fort near the present Sitka. In 1802 the Sitka Indians rose upon this post, killed part of its inmates, and drove the rest away, but 2 years later Baranoff drove them from their fort in turn and established on its site a post which grew into the present Sitka, the capital successively of Russian America and Alaska Territory until 1906. Russian rule was so harsh that there were frequent outbreaks among the natives so long as the territory remained under their control. In 1836 to 1840 occurred a terrible epidemic of smallpox, brought up from the Columbia River, which swept away hundreds of Indians. In 1840 the Hudson’s Bay Company took a lease from the Russian American Company of all their lands between Cape Splicer and latitude 54° 40′ N. In 1867 the Tlingit were transferred will, the rest of the Alaskan people to the jurisdiction of the United States and since then they have been suffering ever more rapid transformation under the influences of western civilization.

Tlingit Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that there were 10,000 Tlingit in 1740. Veniaminoff (1840) gave 5,850 for the year l835, an enumeration made by Sir James Douglas 4 years later showed 5,455 exclusive of the Yakutat. In 1861 Lt. Wehrman of the Russian Navy reported 8,597 as the result of a census. Petroff (1884) in the census of 1880 gave 6,763, but the census of 1890 showed only 4,583, not counting the Tlingitized Ugalakmiut. The census of 1910 returned 4,426; that of 1920, 3,895; and that of 1930, 4,462.

Connection in which the Tlingit Indians have become noted. The Russian capital and the first American territorial capital Sitka was on Tlingit land, as is the later and present territorial capital Juneau. The ports of this tribe, especially those in the Chilkat country, figured prominently in the great Klondike rush.