The art of Tlingit armor

The art of Tlingit armor

The art: Carved from yew wood, with snail operculum embedded into the front.
Tradition: The collar piece is worn in front of the warrior’s face. It is held in place by a mouth piece, typically also made from wood. There are traditionally two eye holes, and a nose indent carved into the piece. Usually these pieces had some kind of formline design carved or painted – or both on it.
Joseph said the wood is steam bent to create the wrap-around form.
The operculum was found on about one quarter of the historical pieces Joseph viewed.
They also had heavy hide sewn onto the bottom so a dagger couldn’t slip through easily.

The art: Elk hide armor, with yew wood slat armor on top. Joseph hand made the sinew from Sitka deer, which ties the slats together.
Tradition: The armor is meant to protect against spears, daggers and war clubs. Most hide armor was two-ply. Some had formline art either inside or outside. Slat armor was sewn under the collar of the hide armor, additional protection against neck attacks.
Slat armor phased out with the Russian trade period, when Chinese coins entered the battle field. Joseph said the coins were easy to use because they already had holes punched into the center, and was less time consuming than weaving sinew around wooden slats. It still offered sturdy protection.
Joseph said that because of the layering, it even protected the warriors against early musket fire.

The art: The dagger is a traditional copper blade, with a wooden handled carved into a brown bear, with an abalone inlay.
The bow is carved from yew.
Tradition: Joseph said the Tlingits used copper before the Europeans arrived. Daggers were later made with steel as trade increased. Typically pieces had intricately designed handles.
Joseph found some war clubs that had sea lion teeth embedded into the end piece.


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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1 Response to The art of Tlingit armor

  1. Frank Hopper says:

    Too bad it doesn’t protect against corporatocracy and consumerism.

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