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Knife and sheath

Knife and sheath associated with Chief Shakes VI (Tlingit b.?–1916)
ca. 1840–1890
Etolin Island, Alaska
Iron, brass, ivory, abalone, caribou hide, wool cloth, cotton cloth, glass beads, dentalium shell
75 x 12 cm (sheath), 46 x 5 cm (knife)
The Judge Nathan Bijur Collection

“This knife and sheath belonged to Chief Shakes VI, whose names were Sheiyksh, Ltusháax´w, and Gúshtlein. His wife was from the Kaach.ádi clan. The father of Chief Shakes was a man named Sk´aawulyeil. His uncle was Chief Shakes V (X´adaneik), whose mother was Aanshaawasnook, sister of Chief Shakes IV, whose other names were Xwaakeil and Keishíshk´. Before Chief Shakes VI died in 1916, he was ordered to will his property to his widow and not his maternal nephew, contrary to Tlingit inheritance laws. Afterward, all of his property wound up outside his clan.”
—Ghooch Shaayí, Hít Tlein T´aakhu khwaan (Harold Jacobs, Big House of the Taku River Tlingit)

A dagger is called gwálaa, literally “it strikes” or “it hits.” It is also referred to as x´aan.át, “something close to one’s hand.” It is something used in battle and kept close at hand.

The figure of the man in the Raven’s beak, carved in ivory and inlaid with abalone shell, is executed in classic Tlingit formline designs. The dagger’s carving and the brass overlay on the hilt covered with leather show the skill of its creator. The dagger dates from the 19th century.

The sheath, with its beadwork in Taal taan (Tahltan) style and valuable dentalium shell (táx´xee) obtained in trade, complements the craftsmanship of the dagger and the history of the Tlingit. Much beadwork of this style has been found among the Shx´at kwaan (Stikine people) of Wrangell.

—Ghooch Shaayí, Hít Tlein T´aakhu khwaan (Harold Jacobs, Big House of the Taku River Tlingit), cultural specialist, Tlingit–Haida Central Council

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