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Review from a 3rd Grader Part 2: My day in Wrangell

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In the afternoon we went to a town called Wrangell to see a dance presentation by the Tlingit natives, pronounced Klinkit. But before that we went to a museum called the Nolan Center. At the Nolan Center they had a bunch of history about their town. It was originally a native village and then prospectors came in and they founded the town of Wrangell, named after a Russian fur trader. There were a bunch of stuffed animals, especially a lot of birds. There were also stuffed moose heads with gigantic antlers. There was a section that had many native dolls, and many beaded baskets and such. Then there was a section on the gold rush. It told how people mined for gold, what tools they used and that there were barely any people who struck it rich. 40,000 people went to get gold, 4000 found gold, and only 400 struck it rich.

After we learned all this we went to the Chief Shakes tribal house for the dance presentation by the Tlingit. A man named Arthur Larsen came out to greet us. He had his dance costume on with his clan crests on the front, eagle and killer whale. When he danced he had boots on with beaded moccasins and he had deer hooves attached to the tops of the boots so that he could dance around and have clinking noises from the hooves and it acted like an instrument. On his hands he wore his father's harbor seal skin gloves. When we got in he introduced the rest of the dancers and they started their dance. It turns out the lodge was built by three women who sawed the boards by hand, they put them down, made the roof, and in Tlingit culture, women aren't as strong as men.

My favorite dance was the killer whale dance. All of the women were making ocean motions with their hands and the men were walking around lower down near the fire pit with one hand on their head like the dorsal fin and the other on their side like the pectoral fin. Every so often they would be dancing around and then one of them would stand on their tip-toes and lean their head back and blow like a blowhole. All of these were songs, although it sounded more like chanting. There was singing and drum beats.

The surprising thing was everybody was all volunteers even though they were Tlingit. Two of them were even kids and one of them was Cherokee. The other kid had a drum and a raven on the back of his robe. In Tlingit culture you take your mother's clan. For example, if your mother is a raven, you are a raven, and you must marry an eagle. If your mother is an eagle then you are an eagle and you must marry a raven. This tradition keeps it balanced. There was a mother and a son there and they both had the same crest on the back of their robes. After this presentation we went back to the boat.  We had a very exciting day in Wrangell.  

Your favorite Little Explorer,

Cassie Garrett

P.S.  You can  read my other blogs about the my first day in Alaska here!

Cassie Garrett is the daughter of Rachael Garrett, our Alaska Program Director. Together they cruised the waters of Southeast Alaska on our Alaska Inside Passage Adventure: Eastern Coves.

Tlingit Culture in Wrangell, Alaska
Get to know your guides: Ale Sanchez, Costa Rica

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