Sealaska Heritage Institute creates first-ever registry of Tlingit Clan Crests

The Sealaska Heritage Institute creates the first registry of Tlingit Clan Crests.
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 8:31 AM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Sealaska Heritage Institute has created the first-ever registry of Tlingit Clan Crests, which it announced in a press release on Wednesday.

The registry currently houses six crests from six different clans, but there are plans for more crests from more clans to be added.

“We want to keep going and expand this, we have, you know, identified about 200 crests belonging to about 30 clans or more,” Senior Ethnologist of the Sealaska Heritage Institute Chuck Smythe said.

Tlingit Clan Crests are the most important symbols of history and identity for Tlingit people as they are a way to memorialize supernatural encounters as well as ancestors and keep them and their stories present in the lives of clan members throughout generations.

“The lineage of these clans are very deep, the lineages of the clans go way back in time, and I think having the crests present today kind of brings that out,” Smythe said.

Alongside the registry is a booklet that is available for purchase on the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s website that shows the clan crests as well as tells information about the crests and the histories behind them.

All the information in the booklet as well as the imagery of the crests comes from clan leaders and representatives.

“The stories and the symbology and all of that are owned by individual clans,” Smythe said. “And so it would be inappropriate for anyone else to tell that story.”