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Alaska State Museum April 2024 Artifact of the Month is the Hands Across Time Robe

by LAM Webmaster on 2024-04-10T11:42:00-08:00 in Alaska State Museum, Artifact of the Month | 0 Comments

ravenstail robeThe Alaska State Museum April 2024 Artifact of the Month is the Hands Across Time Robe. It was woven by Janice Criswell, Marguerite Fiorella, Bonnie Fitzjarrald, Mary Lou King, Kay Field Parker, Kathy Rado, Janet Hall Schempf, Marcia Stier, and Kristen Tromble in 1991. Design by Cheryl Samuel. ID: 2020-9-1.

“Yeil koowu” in the Tlingit language, or "tail of the raven" is one of the earliest forms of ceremonial robe on the Northwest Coast. The name comes from the complex, feather-like patterning of black on white. Many of the Euro-American explorers who visited the coast of Southeast Alaska in the late 1700s met chiefs wearing these robes.

By the early 1800s, a new style of weaving called Chilkat became the vogue, and the tradition of yeil koowu faded. The Chilkat technique is a difficult art to master. It allows a weaver to make curved designs and can take many months to a year to produce a blanket.

In the 1980s, the art of "ravenstail weaving" was revitalized through classes taught by Cheryl Samuel at the University of Alaska Southeast and others. The "Hands Across Time" robe was woven at the Alaska State Museum by a group of Cheryl Samuels' student volunteers, who collectively contributed 1800 hours of weaving. The robe is loaned out for use at traditional ceremonies and important events.

The robe and other woven regalia will be on display for the public to see at The History and Future Of Yeil Koowwu Ravenstail Weaving event on April 30, 2024 at Centennial Hall.

The event will be hosted by Lily Hope, professor of Northwest Coast Studio Arts at University of Alaska Southeast.

The robe will be on display at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum (not affiliated with the Alaska State Museum) this summer in a show called Yéil Koowú Átx'i Khaa Sháade Nákhx'i Yán Sákw Jeeyís: Ravenstail Regalia for Future Leaders.

The Alaska State Museum has a fragment of a raven’s tail blanket on permanent display in the Clan House. It was discovered during an archaeological dig on Castle Hill in Sitka in 1998. The fragment was part of a robe that was made circa 1830s. The fragment represents one of only a dozen original robes that exist today in museums worldwide.

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