Chilkat blankets were the specialty of the Chilkat tribe of the Tlingit, whose territory was at the mouth of the Chilkat River in southeast Alaska. This group refined the style to its highest level in the late nineteenth century, but it had initially been developed among the Tsimshian-speaking people who lived along the Skeena and Nass Rivers on the mainland and had easy access to mountain goats in their hunting territories. Early explorers like Captain James Cook collected cedar bark capes decorated with small amounts of goat's wool; not until the early nineteenth century did full Chilkat-style blankets appear in collections.
A Chilkat-style blanket of mountain goat wool and cedar bark. The centre figure, an Eagle, is flanked by two profile Ravens.
Collected from a Kaigani Haida village in Alaska circa 1900 by George T. Emmons.
CMC VII-X-1491 (S91-946)
Although Chilkat blankets have many design variations, the most favoured one on those owned by the Haida is a double-profile view of Konankada in the guise of a Killer Whale, flanked by two profile Ravens. This design, according to George T. Emmons, is a reference to the first potlatch in the world, which was given by Konankada in honour of the Raven. A vivid description of the first potlatch according to the Tsimshian is provided by Franz Boas.
date created: november 30, 1998 | Last Updated: April 1, 2010