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The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles

May 7 - October 9, 2021


Organized by the Alaska State Museum (ASM), this exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations weavers.

Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was reserved for sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique traditions into the 21st century.

The exhibit is developed by ASM, working with a curatorial team of internationally renowned weavers:

  • Evelyn Vanderhoop (Haida),
  • Delores Churchill (Haida),
  • Marie Oldfield (Tsimshian), and
  • Lani Hotch (Tlingit)

Assisted by Juneau-area weavers:

  • Kay Parker,
  • Marsha Stier,
  • Lily Hope (Tlingit),
  • Janice Criswell (Haida),
  • and others.

Photo banner credit: Potlatch Guests Arriving at Sitka, Winter 1803 by Bill Holm. Collection of the Alaska State Museum 92-22-1

“The Spirit Wraps Around You”: A New Exhibit on northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles

Lani Strong Hotch (Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center), Steve Henrikson, Jackie Manning and Aaron Elmore (Alaska State Museum)

Abstract: The Alaska State Museum and Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center are collaborating with Alaska Native/First Nations co-curators on a large exhibit on the history of “Ravenstail” (Northern geometric) and Naaxein (Chilkat) weaving, to open in Juneau in May 2021. This presentation highlights the planning and design process to date, and previews some of the artifacts and subject matter to be exhibited.

  • Jackie Manning at a podium while smiling & talking. (5-b Jackie Manning)
  • Lani Hotch at a podium giving a talk with slides about Northern Northwest Coast Textiles Exhibit 2020. (5-b Saantass' Lani Hotch)
  • Chilkat blanket display being set up by 3 women. (6-b APK museum project)

Photographs courtesy Peter Metcalfe/Sharing our Knowledge.

Links provided by Sharing Our Knowledge: A Conference of Tlingit, Haida & Tsimshian Tribes & Clans, Juneau, Alaska 2019.

Dye Project

The Chilkat Dye Working Group is a collaboration of weavers meeting monthly with the Alaska State Museum to guide the research of both historic and new Chilkat dye technologies. As part of the Pacific Northwest Conservation Science Consortium, the group sends both historic fiber samples and new dye reference materials to chemists at Portland State University for characterization. This synergy of art and science enhances our understanding of past innovations in their cultural context and promotes the ongoing practice of weaving through a network of nourishing relationships.

The Chilkat Dye Working Group

Liana Wallace (Tlingit), Lily Hope (Tlingit), and Tami Lasseter Clare (Portland State University)

Abstract: Chilkat weavers, and chemistry professor Tami Lasseter Clare of Portland State University, will report on their collaborative research and answer questions in conjunction with the Alaska State Museum’s summer exhibition of textile regalia:

  1. To make space for a dialog among weavers, museums, and other kinds of experts about Chilkat weaving technology and meaning;
  2. To better understand the dye innovations of Chilkat weavers;
  3. To enhance dye choices and creative control for the benefit of living and future weavers;
  4. To celebrate the people, past+present+future, who make and use Chilkat weavings; and
  5. To create a model of research that foregrounds the priorities of Indigenous people through a network of long-term relationships.

The presenters will report on the first year of research and upcoming activities including the convening of the Pacific Northwest Conservation Science Consortium that will meet in Juneau next summer for a detailed presentation and discussion of Chilkat dye analysis.

Lianna speaks into a microphone. A Chilkat robe is displayed in the background. (3-b Lianna Wallace)

Photographs courtesy Peter Metcalfe/Sharing our Knowledge.

Links provided by Sharing Our Knowledge: A Conference of Tlingit, Haida & Tsimshian Tribes & Clans, Juneau, Alaska 2019.



  • Ravenstail Weavers Guild
  • The Ciri Foundation
  • Sealaska Heritage Institute
  • Friends of the Alaska State Library, Archives & Museum
  • King Family Trust


  • Kay Parker
  • Marcia Stier
  • Janet Hall Schempf

Additional funding to support this program is being solicited by the Friends of the State Library, Archives and Museums (FOSLAM). Contributions may be made through the FOSLAM website (please specify “SWAY Exhibit”).

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