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Photo: Paul Macapia

Lkaayaak yeil s'aaxw (Box of Daylight Raven Hat)

ca. 1850

Gaanax'adi clan

Taku

Tlingit

This hat depicts Raven in semi-human form, grasping the lid of the box from which he released the sun, moon and stars. This hat, unique in its full sculptural form, references the famous Box of Daylight story of the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska. It was Raven who released the sun, moon and stars from the box being held by Naas Shakee Yeil, Raven at the Head of the Nass.

Carved wood hats are among the most valued and significant objects of the Tlingit, which display a variety of crest emblems used by a particular clan that may include animals, geographic features or natural phenomena. They are brought out or shown only on ceremonial occasions of great importance. When not in use, hats such as this one are stored safely by a clan caretaker, who is someone recognized by the clan to have the knowledge and qualities necessary for such an important position. Similar hats and headdress frontlets are still brought out on ceremonial occasions, and their history and connection to the clan is recounted and validated. Crests memorialize an event or encounter between a clan ancestor and an animal or a crest symbol. Ownership of specific crests by matrilineal clans lies at the heart of the Tlingit crest art system and is the motivation for the creation of crest display regalia.


Maple, mirror, abalone shell, bird skin, paint, sea lion whiskers, copper, leather, Flicker feathers, 11 7/8 x 7 3/4 x 12 1/4 in. (30.2 x 19.7 x 31.1 cm), Gift of John H. Hauberg, 91.1.124,

location
Now on view at Seattle Art Museum
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Photo: Paul Macapia

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Raven then changed his spirit into a bird form again and took the last box… the one they call the box of daylight and he flew out into the nighttime sky

Gene Tagaban recalling the Box of Daylight story, 2006

The Box of Daylight Raven hat is unique in its full sculptural form and in the variety of materials used in its construction. As an example of Tlingit crest art, this hat displays the crest of Raven and makes reference to the story of Raven, who released the sun, moon and stars from the box being held by Naas Shakee Yeil, Raven at the Head of the Nass. Ownership of specific crests lies at the heart of the Tlingit crest art system and is the motivation for the creation of crest display regalia. Crest art can take many forms and continues to be created and used today.

Naas shagl yell s'aaxw (Raven at the Headwaters of Nass hat), ca. 1810, Tlingit, Gaanax'adi clan, Taku, Kadyisdu.axch', Tlingit, Kiks.adi clan, 91.1.125  

What Materials Were Used to Make This Hat?

The rich materials used on this hat include mirror, abalone shell, copper, bird skin, sea lion whiskers and flicker feathers. The mouth, nostrils and eyes are inlaid with bright, iridescent abalone shell, a material long prized by Native artists on the Northwest Coast. Copper overlays the lips and eyebrows. The use of rich materials such as abalone-the inner surface of which is a source of mother-of-pearl-and copper are displays of wealth and status.

The range of materials used in the creation of this hat is evidence of Native trade on the Pacific Coast and of contact with Euro-Americans. The flicker feathers that are seen at the back of the hat are constructed in the sinew-sewn style and can be traced to northern California. The feather band was originally part of a headband worn by the Native men of the Pomo or related tribes in northern California. The abalone shell may have also been acquired in trade along the Pacific Coast, as the blue-green color prized by artists is found in the shells that originate on the California coast. The worn piece of inlaid mirror on the front of the chest is believed to be the first mirror acquired by the Taku Tlingit in their initial encounter with Euro-Americans. The round mirror above Raven's head, representing the sun, is much newer, and it may have been made to replace older material that was too fragile to use or deteriorated over time.

Detail of mouth, nostrils and eyes of Raven, inlaid with alalone shell, 91.1.124  

Detail of copper overlays on the lips and eyebrows of the bird, 91.1.124  

Detail of worn piece of inlaid mirror, 91.1.124  

Detail of newer mirror that may have replaced a pervious material, 91.1.124  

At.óow and Crest Art

An essential concept underlying all dimensions of Tlingit spiritual, social and cultural life is at.óow, or clan artifacts, which translates as "something you own." At.óow could be a story, song, name, design or even a geographic feature such as a mountain. These things can be executed as designs in a work of art such as a tunic, hat or robe, but the work is not automatically considered at.óow. Through ceremonial use and dedication, a work of art over time may become at.óow. The rules and protocols that govern this concept are complex and include knowledge of genealogy and education about the responsibilities and handling of at.óow. The dimensions involved extend far beyond the physical work of art. Ownership of specific crests by matrilineal clans lies at the heart of the Tlingit crest art system and is the motivation for the creation of crest display regalia. Crests memorialize an event or encounter between a clan ancestor and the animal or crest symbol.

Guulaangw gyaat'aad (button robe), ca. 1890, John Yeltadzi, Kaigani Haida, yahgu'laanaas Raven clan, 91.1.65  

Painted Woven Hat, 1895, Charles Edenshaw, Haida, 83.226  

Button blanket (dogfish design), Late 19th century, Haida, 83.238  

Tsa.an Xuu.ujee Dajangee, Crest Hat (Sea Bear), ca. 1870, Haida, 83.228  

The Celebration Festival in Juneau, Alaska

Celebration is a biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribal members in Juneau, Alaska. The festival attracts thousands of participants and spectators and is organized by the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The event encourages individuals, families, clans and communities to participate in traditional songs and dances, arts and crafts and the revitalization of Native languages. Celebration is a new tradition. The first was held in 1982, and it is not a ceremonial potlatch or memorial party. Adoptions, name giving, memorial services and other events that are a proper part of those traditional gatherings are not part of Celebration and are observed at other times. In 2006, an inaugural biennial event held the day and night before Celebration brought together Northwest Coast Native artists and scholars of the visual and performing arts to become acquainted with one another and their work, share ideas, make presentations, discuss issues and create a network so that artists could expand their connections. The hope for this event is to inspire and support both present and future generations of artists and the Northwest Coast Native art community as a whole.

Other Tlingit Works in SAM's Collection with Raven Imagery

Yéil X'eenh (Raven Screen), ca. 1810, Tlingit, Kadyisdu.axch, 79.98  

Yeil sheishoox, Raven Rattle, ca. 1850, Native American, Tlingit, Wrangell, AK, 91.1.57  

Yéil kudás' (Raven shirt), ca. 1895, Tlingit, Deisheetaan clan, Angoon, 91.1.81  

Naas shagl yell s'aaxw (Raven at the Headwaters of Nass hat), ca. 1810, Tlingit, Gaanax'adi clan, Taku, Kadyisdu.axch', Tlingit, Kiks.adi clan, 91.1.125  

Other Tlingit Hats in SAM's Collection

Kágeit S'aaxw, Loon Hat, ca. 1830, Native American, Tlingit, 91.1.114  

Eagle war helmet, Ch'aak l'oo shádaa, ca. 1780, Native American, Tlingit, L'eneidi clan, Aanxahitaan, Angoon, 91.1.72  

Xoots l'oo shádaa, Bear war helmet, ca. 1850, Native American, Tlingit, 91.1.51  

Map of Tlingit Peoples

Map of Northwest Coast, showing Tlingit peoples   © Seattle Art Museum  

Media

Gene Tagaban shares the Box of Daylight story