top of page
  • Emma Keechle

Indigenous Alaskans Weave Cultural History into Wearable Art

Indigenous Alaskans have been weaving for centuries. From weaving long strands of grass to yarn made out of mountain goat wool. Some of their more traditional weaving techniques include Chilkat and Ravenstail.

Chilkat weaving is a traditional weaving technique practiced by the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, as well as Northwestern Coast tribes of Alaska and British Columbia. Chilkat weaving is traditionally used to weave intricate patterned robes and blankets worn by high ranking tribal people. These tribal people would wear these robes/blankets during civil and ceremonial ceremonies events, including dancing. Chilkat blankets were almost always, black white, yellow and blue colored, with a long fringe that sways when a dancer moves. While mainly chilkat weaving is used for robes/blankets it can be applied to almost any type of cloth from shirts and vests to hats and wallets, as well as wall hangings.

Ravenstail weaving is considered a precursor to chilkat. Both originate from the NorthWest coast of Alaska and Canada, specifically among the tsimshian. Ravenstail is composed of sharp geometric lines with minimal colors, while chilkat is more natural looking with curved lines and more colors. Ravenstail is traditionally weaved out of mountain goat wool, but modernaly made of merino wool. Ravenstail weaving colors consist of black, white, and sometimes yellow dyed wool.

Both Ravenstail and Chilkat both started to die out due to the invention of faster and easier weaving techniques and machines. However, they both have started to revitalize themselves due to multiple different people and tribal people aiming to re-discover their roots and keep history alive.

While there will not be anybody adorning chilkat or ravenstail at the indigenous fashion show, there will be lots of other native clothing being adorned. All the fashion designers are native here in Alaska, and plan to honor and keep traditions alive. All the designs were inspired by native traditions and culture as well as the nature that surrounds them.

Sources: Chilkat%20 weaving,are%20broken%20into%20vertical%20columns.


bottom of page