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WOLF SONGS & Others of the Tlingit


The poems WOLF SONGS & Others of the Tlingit that appear in Alcheringa Vol. 1, No. 2, are workings of James Koller based on John Swanton's Myths and Texts of the Tlingit.

John Swanton was an American anthropologist who extensively studied native Americans of the Northwestern and Southeastern United States. His work focused on myths and traditional stories of the tribes he studied.


The Tlingit are indigenous people located in the vast forests of Alaska. The exact beginnings of this group of Indians are unknown but they were able to build a trade empire that was second only to the Inca empire in the south.

The name they use for themselves is “Lingít” which means people. Their language is well-known for its complex sound system and grammar, including the use of phonemes that are not heard in almost any other language.

Contemporary Tlingít do not live on reservations and are united in the Central Council of the Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. At one time they struggled to preserve their ways of life, but have been able to rebuild by practicing their traditional crafts as well as fishing.


The Tlingít have a rich oral tradition that demonstrates cultural values such as family and kinship. Important indicators of status, good breeding, and wealth include generosity and proper behavior. Society was highly stratified and marriages were arranged by family members. (“I'm gonna marry my brother's wife after he dies”)

The Tlingit's social organization consisted of two parts, depending on the time period. One part was the Raven or Crow (“throw him into the river let him float down Crow can fish him out downstream” “You surprise me crow whenever you see wolf people”) and the other was known as the Eagle or Wolf. (“I wonder what eagle did to him all those crows around him”“they sound like howling wolves”“when an eagle takes a crow he has a good time with her”“it would be very pleasant to die with a wolf woman”)

Works Cited

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Tlingit”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 17 May. 2019, Accessed 14 June 2021.

“John R. Swanton.” New World Encyclopedia, . 22 May 2018, 14:50 UTC. 14 Jun 2021, 11:04 <>.

“Tlingit.” Tlingit - New World Encyclopedia,

The Tlingit Nation Pg 2,

The Tlingit Nation Pg 3,




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