YAKUTAT, Alaska — Like other native tribes of the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingits carved totems, built plank houses and made long sea voyages in wooden canoes.
They wove blankets out of goat hair and garments of grass, and their artwork is prized by museums and collectors.
No one is sure when they came to Alaska's Southeast Panhandle, but once here, the Tlingits accumulated power by controlling trade routes through the steep coastal mountains, according to Richard Dauenhauer of the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, an Indian corporation in Juneau.
The Tlingits lived off the plentiful salmon and hunted seals for food and skins. Their sea voyages that often took them as far south as present-day Seattle, Dauenhauer said.
Aggressive Slave Holders
The Tlingits were known as fierce warriors, and some of their voyages were slave-taking raids.
The white man began to encroach on Tlingit territory during the 1700s. Among the early settlers were the Russian fur traders who built the fort they called Glory of Russia near what is now the fishing village of Yakutat.