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The Tlingit are an Alaska Native tribe and Canadian First Nations people. Their name for themselves is Lingit, meaning “people”. The Russian name Koloshi (from an Aleutian term for the labret) or the related German name Koulischen may be encountered in older historical literature. The Tlingit are a matrilineal society who developed a complex hunter-gatherer culture in the temperate rainforest of the southeast Alaska coast and the Alexander Archipelago. The Tlingit language is well known not only for its complex grammar and sound system but also for using certain phonemes which are not heard in almost any other human language. Members of the Tlingit Nation still create superb baskets of outstanding workmanship and in the dramatic ornamentation used in their creation. Their baskets most often have plain woven bottoms and are particularly known for their wonderfully thin walls. As the walls of the basket were built up they wove in bands of various colours so that the colour was visible on both the inside and outside of the basket. Decorative patterns frequently suggested natural subjects with which they were familiar on a daily basis. Tlingit basket weavers created their designs by using a technique called false embroidery, or imbrication, in which a strand of decorative material is wrapped around the outside of the exposed weft and in this way can not be seen on the inside of the basket. Some exceptional basketry is made with split spruce root and decorated with dyed grasses or bark. They may also be left in their natural light colour. The women were ingenious in discovering new ways to obtain dyes from natural sources. Mud boiled in salt water and hemlock bark, or boiled iron scrapings or huckleberry juice create a black or dark brown dye. Alder bark steeped in urine, or boiled leaves and stems of the nettle plant produces red; Boiling brings out a yellow from Lichen, and hemlock bark boiled with oxidized copper produces blue-green. Many Tlingit baskets made their way into international collections and museums in the early 20th C. and are still seriously collectible.

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