This Box of Knowledge paper, written by Sealaska Heritage President Rosita Ḵaaháni Worl, Ph.D., provides a brief review of Tlingit memorial rites based on the personal knowledge and experience of the author and her years of study, as well as references from prominent traditional and academic scholars on Southeast Alaska Native cultures.
The principle of dualism dominates Tlingit and Haida societies and is evident in the moiety system in which they are divided between Eagles and Ravens. Every clan belongs to either the Raven or Eagle moiety. The core cultural value of Wooch Yáx̱ (social and spiritual balance) requires reciprocity between opposite moieties and clans. This reciprocity is clearly evident in the mortuary complex, with the opposite side performing various acts of ceremonial service for the grieving clan. These acts of reciprocity ultimately serve to unite the moieties and clans into a cohesive, integrated, functioning society. Despite the changes that have occurred, the basic underlying beliefs and practices of the traditional mortuary rites persist.
Sealaska Heritage's Box of Knowledge series consists of essays, reports, and books that institute considers should be made available as a contribution to studies on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures, history, and languages. They may be based on work carried out by researchers working in collaboration with SHI, contributions prepared by external experts, and work by staff.
For more on SHI's publications, visit https://www.sealaskaheritage.org/institute/culture-and-history/programs/research-and-publications