Klukwan

Detail of "Strong Man Pole" from Whale House. Photo © B. Herem.

Klukwan is a small Native village located on the banks of the Chilkat River in Southeast Alaska, twenty two miles north of Haines. According to the United States Census Bureau’s 2000 census 139 people lived in the village of which 88% were Native American.

The Tlingit people that live at the head of the Lynn Canal and along the Chilkat River are known collectively as the Chilkat. Presently, the Chilkat are mainly divided between two communities, Klukwan and Haines. The Chilkat in these locations now consider themselves as different groups, but in earlier days they were a single unit with their main village at Klukwan, and other villages on the Chilkat and Chilkoot rivers.

The name Klukwan is an anglicized version of the Tlingit name Tlakw Aan, roughly translated as “forever village” due to its long history of habitation.

By the end of the 19th century Klukwan was considered the most prestigious of all Tlingit villages. It’s inhabitants were quite well off as some of them controlled the fur trade routes over the mountains into the interior. The village was also known to be quite conservative relative to other native villages of the time as the inhabitants rejected white influences for longer than many southern populations.

It was also generally understood among the Tlingit that the residents of Klukwan were powerful warriors which added to the village's high status. Due to this high ranking and prosperity, Klukwan was and is home to magnificent sculptures and paintings and is an excellent village to use to showcase the art of the Tlingit people.

Klukwan village, 1895. Photograph by Winter and Pond.

Textual information for this page: Emmons 1991; Jonaitis 1986; Goldshmidt and Theodore 1998; Chilkat Indian Village Website.