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Old Tlingit Tool Donated To Sealaska Heritage Institute


Piece may have been used to split wood

Juneau woman has donated a rare Tlingit tool that may be several thousand years old to Sealaska Heritage Institute.

The donor, who asked to remain anonymous, gave it this week to the institute, which operates a Special Collections Research Center for archives and ethnographic collections.

Archivist Zachary Jones was amazed when he first saw the piece.

"I thought 'this piece is fantastic--really a beautiful work of Tlingit craftsmanship,' " Jones said, noting the piece appears to be a wood splitter.

"It's sort of long and pointed and has a flat end, which it appears it could be hammered with to help move things. It could have been used for carving, wood arts, but it might have been more functional for building the traditional Tlingit homes," he said.

Tlingit tools such as the one donated are very rare, Jones said, noting only a few museums in the world and in Alaska have some. The institute will care for it and allow its use for educational purposes.

"At Sealaska Heritage Institute we're really overwhelmed with gratitude that people recognize the importance of these things and how important they are to the culture. And to be able to bring them back and make them available for educational purposes is really a move in the right direction," Jones said.

The institute has expanded its holding facility through grants and donations from Sealaska Corporation, the Rasmuson Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. SHI enlarged its facilities to accommodate a growing number ethnographic collections and archival materials acquired in recent years. The institute employs a professional staff to care for cultural objects and archival materials. Staff hopes to eventually have additional space for public exhibitions of its collections.

The Special Collections Research Center is open to the public 8:15-4:15 p.m., Monday-Friday (closed noon-1 p.m.). It is located on the third floor of Sealaska Plaza.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a Native nonprofit founded by Sealaska Corp. in 1980 to administer the corporation's cultural programs. The mission of the Institute is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

CONTACT:  Zachary Jones, SHI Archivist, 586-9261

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