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Our History


The Haida Nation and the Tlingit Nation have existed as two separate and distinct people since time immemorial. This great land (Aani) known as Southeast Alaska is the ancestral home of the Tlingit and Haida people. Legend has it that in ancient times a portion of the Haida Nation came to this land from Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia), the true ancestral home of the Haida people.
The Haida legend of "The Raven and the First People" expresses how Raven discovered mankind and is responsible for the present order of our universe. Likewise, the Tlingit legend of "Raven and the Creation Story" tells us how the Raven created the world.

Tlingit people and Haida people are born into their identity through a matrilineal clan system: One's identity is established through the mother's clan. All Haida and Tlingit clans are organized into two major moieties: Eagle and Raven. In Tlingit, Yeil is Raven and Ch'aak is Eagle (Wolf is sometimes used interchangeably with Eagle). Each clan is made up of clan houses.

The Haida people and Tlingit people have always lived on these sacred and wondrous lands and waters of Southeast Alaska as the original occupants and guardians. The Creator has blessed our people with these lands and waters for our use as mariners, fishermen, hunters, gatherers, traders and many other purposes.

Our people take great pride in our ability to both cultivate and harvest the resources of the land and sea in a responsible manner. We recognize the value of and retain reverence and respect for all life of the land and sea that we harvest to give us strength and sustenance. Haida and Tlingit values do not permit waste; we use every bit of the salmon, herring, hooligan, deer, seal, crab, clams, gumboots, mussels, seaweed, berries, and all that the land and water provide.

Our history shows that prior to contact this land that is occupied by Tlingit and Haida people remained in balance, maintained that way by our active stewardship, hard work, wise laws, and respect.

We have always understood the land not only gives sustenance and health, but also provides materials for our traditional use. The tall cedar trees were used in an honorable way for clan houses, totems, canoes, ceremonial and dance regalia, baskets, and utensils.

We follow the ancient laws of our people that are the foundation of our tribal sovereignty. Since time immemorial, our inherent sovereignty pervades within our traditional villages and communities enhanced by our spiritual relationship to all the land and waters of Southeast Alaska. Our traditional ceremonies validate our identity and culture. We have specific protocols, including potlatches, in celebrating a birth, a marriage, giving a name, sharing of wealth, raising totems, commemorating special events and honoring a leader or the departed.

The waters remain our highways, and from the beginning of time we utilized canoes carved from the majestic cedar. These masterpieces of efficiency and ingenuity were sold and/or traded to others outside the Tribes. Our people have always carried on extensive trade and social relations throughout our territory, as well as with people as far away as Mexico and Hawaii. Our commerce includes a monetary system, as well as a bartering system, for the exchange of goods and services.

Our people have made a transition to a written, formal process to engage in foreign government relationships in order to address issues impacting us. Foreigners continue to attack our rights to self-government as sovereign nations, while continuing the decimation of the Tlingit and Haida population, our traditional homeland, and our access to natural resources. The Tlingit nation and the Haida nation united with foresight, courage, and determination to fight for our rights and preserve our relationship with the land, water, and resources. As a result of those who fought the battle, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska was formed to serve the interests of the Tlingit and Haida people for generations to come.

We, the Tlingits and Haidas, enrolled citizens of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, affirm our inherent sovereignty, which will never be alienated. We perpetuate and preserve our traditions to ensure that future generations inherit their rightful heritage as Tlingit and Haida people. The practiced customs and traditions of our people must be passed on from one generation to the next with pride and dignity. Our rich cultural history and practices will be passed on to future generations through our traditional dances and ceremonies. Our sacred and vibrant traditions survive, growing stronger and richer each year.

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