Located along the serene banks of the Chilkat River in Southeast Alaska lies the ancient Tlingit village of Klukwan, a cultural gem known as the Chilkat Indian Village. This community has been the enduring home of the Chilkat Tlingits, a federally recognized tribe, for countless generations.
The name Klukwan finds its roots in the Tlingit phrase “Tlakw Aan,” which translates to “Eternal Village” or “The Village That Has Always Been.” This nomenclature beautifully captures the essence of a settlement steeped in rich cultural history.
Klukwan serves as a living testament to the enduring traditions of the Tlingit people, embracing cultural protocols that have been unique to them for millennia. The matrilineal clan system, grounded in a moiety structure, delineates distinct responsibilities for each Eagle (Kaagwaantaan) or Raven (Ganaaxteidi) clan. Passing down songs, stories, dances, and language to the younger generation ensures the preservation of this vibrant culture.
In the last fifteen years, the village has embarked on significant initiatives to preserve and revive their ancestors’ cultural arts and practices. The Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage Center plays a pivotal role in this endeavor. Addressing the challenge of housing precious clan treasures that were once kept in clan houses, this center serves as a museum, clan house, carving studio, salmon-drying room, and shop. Beyond its physical spaces, the center hosts regular dance performances and art classes, fostering a dynamic environment for cultural enrichment.
Education is a cornerstone of Klukwan’s commitment to sustaining its heritage. Alongside the Klukwan School and community library, the village offers courses on traditional knowledge, languages, and arts. These initiatives align with the community’s overarching goals of perpetuating traditional knowledge, enhancing community self-sufficiency, and advancing total wellness.
Klukwan’s dedication to cultural preservation and community sustainability transforms it from a geographical location into a captivating exploration of the Tlingit people’s rich history. The village’s holistic approach, balancing the revival of cultural arts with educational initiatives, creates a vibrant, engaging, enlightening tapestry. Klukwan stands as a beacon, radiating the legacy of the Tlingit people, inviting all to discover and appreciate its cultural tapestry.
32 Chilkat Ave, Haines, AK 99827 | +1 907-767-5505 | https://chilkat-nsn.gov/