Our Positive Vibes series is all about helping you live an uplifting lifestyle by sharing unique ideas, traditions, and more from destinations and cultures across the globe...so for some positivity, how about seeing how an ancient tribe of Alaska continues making gratitude and generosity shine through their traditions?
Have you ever heard of the Tlingit...pronounced klink-kit...nation of Native Alaskan Indians that have called southeast Alaska home for more than 10,000 years? Living mostly in coastal communities, the Tlingit people and their livelihood is linked to the bounty of the natural world – the sea and the forest – and respecting everything around them. They are especially known for their special occasion rituals called ku.éex’ or potlatch ceremonies that are all about giving to your community in absolute abundance.
Whether celebrating events such as a child naming, birth, marriage, totem pole raising, house building, or even a burial, the Tlingit historically celebrate with a potlatch. Depending on the occasion, each potlatch is different, but the underlying focus has always been about giving – and the more that the host gives, the more revered they become. The whole premise surrounding these special event traditions is to bring together all different clans and create unity and harmony among them.
This tradition of the Tlingit has survived for many a century – even going underground for a while after it was outlawed from 1867-1951 for being perceived as wasteful and a barrier to assimilation. These feasts varied in elaborateness and included elements such as paying respect and gift giving. During these times, many clans gathered and typically performed traditional dances and songs, and shared stories and myths. Hosts would feed hundreds of guests and give away large sums of gifts – such as canoes, hand-crafted blankets, flour, dishes, kettles.
Nowadays, about 30 potlatches are celebrated each year throughout southeast Alaska, reportedly totaling approximately $ 2 million in gifts and money exchanged between clan members annually. It is a core element in the complex social structures of the Tlingit that is still a very important tradition to this day.
We invite you to discover more about the Northwest Coast Native tradition of giving and generosity on your very own Alaskan adventure this year. Come embark on our 8-day Discover Alaska vacation program that opens your eyes and heart to the natural wonderland that surrounds you morning, day, and night. Every day offers an unforgettable memory: the cosmopolitan city of Anchorage, glaciers and mountains, unique native cultures, its Russian legacy, and gold rush days. The best memories of Alaska are often in the moments that are unpredictable: a humpback whale leaping clear of the water, the face of a glacier releasing huge ice chunks, a bear feasting on salmon in a river – all unforgettable experiences that inspire the feelings of gratitude shared in the Tlingit traditions of giving in abundance.