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Native American Art

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Chilkat Robe (Naaxéin)

52 3/4 x 62 1/2 in. (134 x 158.8 cm)

Tlingit artist
United States

Tlingit; made in Alaska

Object Type: Textiles
Medium and Support: Wool, cedar bark, natural dyes
Credit Line: Gift of a Friend of the Gallery
Accession Number: 1968.35
Location: Currently on view
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Living along the Chilkat River of Southern Alaska, the Chilkat people are a single kwan, or geographical grouping, of the larger Tlingit culture. Male and female clan leaders honor their ancestors, both human and animal, by wearing Chilkat robes at festivals called potlatches and other important events. The Chilkat robe (or naaxéin) is a woven ceremonial cape traditionally worn and danced by the chief and other important members of Tlingit society. When danced, the motions of the performer include the dramatic manipulation of the long fringe, further enlivening the animal forms on the robe.

The patterns on Chilkat robes represent animals important to Tlingit clans. These designs manipulate and rearrange specific animal forms, often adding additional faces and multiple eyes. This Chilkat robe features a diving humpback whale in the center panel. The whale is pictured both from above and in profile. Seated ravens shown in profile fill the two side panels of the robe. The arrangement of the overall design takes into account the position of these individual components when the robe is worn.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

See also Cat. no. 9 in Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011, p. 116-121, for analysis of a very similar robe.

Said to have been bought from a Native American chief by Chester W. Lasell (1860-1932); private collection; gift to the Gallery in 1968

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