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Kristi Walker Medina Middle School Fourth Grade. Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest: . The Tlingit. Vocabulary:. Tlingit Potlatch Totem Pole Clan.

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kristi walker medina middle school fourth grade
Kristi Walker

Medina Middle School

Fourth Grade

Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest:

The Tlingit

  • Tlingit
  • Potlatch
  • Totem Pole
  • Clan
The Tlingit (KLIHN kiht) are a Native American tribe who lived along the Northwest coast in a region called the Pacific Northwest.


  • The northwest coast has a wet climate with mild winters and cool summers.
  • Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and forestand rivers to the east.
  • The ocean and forests were rich in natural resources.
  • Because food was plentiful, the Tlingit often traded their excess with neighboring tribes in return for other goods.
  • Ceremonial clothing was worn to potlatches:
  • A Potlatch is a special feast at which the guest receive gifts instead of the host.
  • Carved Masks
  • Potlatch Hats
  • Dancing Dresses
  • Chilkat Robes
  • Potlatches were held to mark an important event such as honoring a new chief or to celebrate a wedding.
  • Special gifts were made or collected for every guest.
  • A guest’s importance determined what type of gift they were given. Important guest might have been given a canoe or fur robe.
  • Some potlatch celebrations lasted for many days.

Tlingits at a potlatch in Sitka, Alaska on December 9, 1904

  • Salmon was the most important food to the Tlingit.
  • In early spring, millions of salmon swim from the salty water of the Pacific Ocean to the freshwater rivers to lay their eggs.
  • The Tlingit called this event the salmon run.
  • A family could catch over 1,000 pounds of salmon during the salmon run.
  • Large portions of the fish was dried or smoked so it could be kept for future meals.
  • Built large plank houses from the vast forest in the area.
  • Often planks were cut from trees without chopping the tree down.
  • Several families would live together in one house during the winter.
  • Houses were decorated with bright, colorful pictures and designs that represented the family’s crest.
totem poles
Totem Poles
  • Huge wooden totem poles stood in front of each home.
  • A totem pole is a pole carved and/or painted with symbols that represent a family’s history.
  • Totem poles were often raised at potlatches.
  • Most were 40-60 feet tall but some were as tall as 100 feet.
family life
Family Life
  • The families that lived together in the same house were part of the same clan.
  • A clan is a group of families with a common ancestor.
  • Clans were established through the mother’s side of the family.
  • Boys were sent to live with his mother’s brother when he was 8 years old to learn how to hunt and other responsibilities.
  • Girls learned house traditions from their mothers and grandmothers.
  • Both boys and girls learned about the Tlingit and their clan’s history & customs from their elders.
  • Tlingit did not have to spend much time “surviving” because there was an abundance of food and other resources where they lived.
  • This enabled them to spend time specializing in technology, or designing tools, ideas, or other ways to solve problems.
  • Examples of Tlingit technology are the dams they built, traps for catching salmon, and making canoes.

Tlingit Fish Trap


This is a modern day Tlingit family performing a dance similar to that of their ancestors. Notice they are wearing traditional Tlingit clothing.

focus questions extended writing
Focus Questions& Extended Writing
  • What role did salmon fishing play in the life of the Tlingit?
  • How did the Tlingit use the natural resources in their environment?
  • What was the purpose of a potlatch?
  • Suppose your class gave a potlatch. Write about your reasons for holding it an the activities you plan.
  • Make a potlatch mask.