Finely detailed art is still produced by today's Tlingit natives. Photo by Lemuel Canady.
Juneau's Native Culture
An important component to our history
Juneau history began long before Joe and Richard showed up. Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people have lived in Southeast Alaska for thousands of years. The Tlingits are the most numerous of the three in Juneau and the northern panhandle. Though languages differ, the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian (sim-shee-an) share common art, ceremonies, and legends - all of which have been shaped by the land and sea. Descendents of the Tlingit and others from this region are prominent in the social and political fabric of modern-day Juneau.
Southeast Native art is generally described as form-line or totemic art and is characterized by fluid design units and images depicting creatures of the natural and spiritual worlds.
Because of the region's rich resources and constant food supply, Southeast Alaska Natives were able to develop a sophisticated social and cultural life. Wealthy enough to support full-time artists, Southeast Native cultures developed an array of art forms, such as totem poles, masks, ceremonial objects, canoes, boxes, blankets, and baskets. Without a written language, Southeast Native societies developed a sophisticated oral tradition and used visual documents to pass on cultural and historical information.
Today, the Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau administers cultural and education programs to preserve the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian traditions.