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(tlĭng`gĭt), group of related Native North American tribes, speaking a language that forms a branch of the Nadene linguistic stock (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
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). The 14 divisions of the Tlingit may reflect a former era when they were entirely independent tribes. Important among the divisions are the Chilkat, the Yakutat, the Stikine, the Sitka, the Auk, and the Huna. In 1741, when visited by Aleksei Chirikov and Vitus Bering, the Tlingit lived in SE Alaska, along the coast and on the islands around Sitka, S to Prince of Wales Island and N to the Copper River. The Russians built (1799) a fort near the site of Sitka, but the indigenous inhabitants drove them out. Aleksandr BaranovBaranov, Aleksandr Andreyevich
, 1747–1819, Russian trader, chief figure in the period of Russian control in Alaska. When his Siberian business faltered, Baranov accepted (1790) an offer to become managing agent of a Russian fur-trading company on Kodiak Island.
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, however, later captured the fort, killing many native people. He established a trading post there, which grew into Sitka. There was constant strife between the Tlingit and the Russians in the early 19th cent. In 1990 there were about 14,400 Tlingit in the United States, mostly in native villages in Alaska. Around 1,200 live on reserves in British Columbia and Yukon. Tlingit culture, like that of the Haida and the Tsimshian, was typical of the Northwest Coast area (see under Natives, North AmericanNatives, North American,
peoples who occupied North America before the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th cent. They have long been known as Indians because of the belief prevalent at the time of Columbus that the Americas were the outer reaches of the Indies (i.e.
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). Some of their finely carved totem poles survive, and the Tlingit still carry on many of their traditional dances. The name is also spelled Tlinget, Tlinkit, and Tlinket.


See L. Jones, A Study of the Tlingets of Alaska (1914, repr. 1970); T. M. Durlach, The Relationship Systems of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian (1928, repr. 1974); R. L. Olsen, Social Structure and Social Life of the Tlingit in Alaska (1967); F. De Laguna, Under Mount Saint Elias (1972).



an American Indian tribe of seafaring fishermen and hunters; former inhabitants of the southeastern coast of Alaska and the neighboring islands. The Tlingit language belongs to the Na-Dene linguistic family. Tlingit society was marked by hereditary slavery and social inequality, and it was organized along the lines of a military democracy; it was divided into totemic phratries and clans with matrilineal descent and inheritance. There are Tlingits living today in some of Alaska’s villages and cities; they are primarily fishermen, lumberjacks, and construction workers.


Averkieva, Iu. P. Indeitsy Severnoi Ameriki. Moscow, 1974.
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Eventually, the Tlingit were invited back, to help supply the invaluable fur of the sea otter, much prized for its warmth and luxurious softness.
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The Alaskan Tlingit clan wants its collection of tribal artifacts back from the University of Pennsylvania and it's threatening to sue to get it.
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