140 Year old Taku River Tlingit First Nation Chilkat blanket Returns Home
Last week, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, whose traditional territory spans Alaska, northern British Columbia, and the Yukon, became aware that a Chilkat blanket collected from a Tlingit community on the Taku River in the 1880s was going up for auction at a prestigious Canadian art house.
Wayne Carlick, a Tlingit elder and a master carver in Atlin, and Ben Louter (Heritage Archaeologist), a settler who has long worked on heritage matters for the TRT government, started a GoFundMe campaign to bid on the piece, which was originally estimated to sell for $15k-20k. The campaign didn’t raise enough, but fortunately, a generous Atlin local named Peter Wright stepped in to loan the necessary funding.
He ended up winning the auction on behalf of the First Nation—but at a steep price. Thanks to bidder #133, The final price came to a staggering $38,000. It is a happy day for our communiy knowing that this piece of our history is coming back home. However, its is sad that our First Nation community and our friends have to put up this this kind of cash to buy back what already belongs to us.
This blanket has a ‘signature’ that has been woven into the fabric that matches that of Mary Hunt exactly. Mary Hunt was Yanwulihashi Hit (Drifted Ashore Clan) of the T’aaku Kwáan (Geese Flood Upriver Tribe). The descendants of the T’aaku Kwáan today are recognized by the Canadian state as the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, although there are many T’aaku Kwáan relations in southeast Alaska as well.
Currently, hundreds of pieces of Tlingit art are kept in distant museums and private art collections. Most community members rarely have opportunities to engage with the art forms that their ancestors perfected, except as photos on the internet. Many of these pieces were collected by European fur traders and gold seekers after epidemic diseases had decimated Tlingit communities living on the Taku. Today, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation is actively working to repatriate artifacts and cultural pieces from museums and private collections.
The Taku River Tlingit First Nations are working with museums to transfer these pieces back to their original home.
Taku River Tlingit First Nation Spokesperson
Hello Charmaine Thom,
I am the great-granddaughter of Mary Hunt and my husband and I visited Atlin and other Tlingit territories in the Yukon and Alaska a few years ago. We are delighted to hear that this blanket has been repatriated to the Nation and I am very proud of my heritage.
Perhaps a foolish question, but do you have a charitable donation registration so that we could contribute to the fundraising? We live in Oliver BC and will be visiting your area to see the blanket in the next year or so. I have been sharing the news to family members around Fort Rupert, Salt Spring Island, etc., and there may be others who can contribute too. Many of us are seniors so unfortunately our contributions may not be large, but everything helps.