Mary Pember: Tlingit masks appraised on 'Antiques Roadshow'

The two Tlingit masks appeared on an episode of Antiques Roadshow. Photo from PBS

Members of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes in Alaska are wondering how two rare masks ended up in the hands of a private collector:
Residents of Southeast Alaska, especially those of the Tlingit Nation, however have mixed emotions and serious concerns about the potential private sale of items that they deem sacred.

According to Native peoples in the Haines area, the masks are from the Tlingit village of Klukwan, about 20 miles north of Haines in the Chilkat river valley.

Although Trotta describes the masks as a wolf and a face mask that are shamanic in nature, he incorrectly notes that the wolf has raven figures carved into its ears. Local Natives and art experts maintain that the wolf actually contains eagle figures.

“I was so excited to see the masks on the show. I am from the Wolf clan (Kaagwaataan) which is under the Eagle moiety therefore the masks have special significance for my family and ancestors,” said Lani Hotch of the Tlingit tribe.

Hotch is director of the Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Center in Klukwan and works with the tribe’s traditional knowledge camp. Descended from a long line of weavers, she is a well-known artisan of the traditional Chilkat and Ravenstail Tlingit weaving styles. She has lived in Klukwan for most of her life.

Hotch recognized the style of masks at once. “Our ancestors had the practice of putting these items on the graves of those who had passed. In the old days, a person’s regalia was also placed on their grave,” she reported.

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Antique Roadshow Features Rare Tlingit Masks (Indian Country Today 2/25)

Also Today:
Tlingit masks on “Antiques Roadshow” draw questions from Southeast Alas (KHNS 2/19)

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