Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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gwálaa “dagger”
Language: Lingít

Yéi áwé áx een kadunéek yaa gwalaa. Hél kaxéel’ yís áyá koostí át áyá. Át yáx’ awooyé áwé áyáx áyá,Yaa dáak dutéeych. (This is how the story of the dagger was told to me. This particular object doesn’t have to be for war. It’s out of respect that this object is brought out.)

—Peter Jack, 2005

Tlingit men wore the gwal.aa, or single-bladed dagger, in a sheath around the neck. The handle was carved to represent clan crests, like the bird figures seen on this knife. The single-bladed dagger was a later type than the two-ended war knife and was not necessarily used for battle, but for personal defense. The late Peter Jack described how a knife like this would be placed with a deceased clan member for protection, saying, “His body is being protected for wherever he is going. That is where this dagger will stand up for him, that’s the way I have heard about this.”

Culture: Tlingit
Region: Chicagof Island, Southeast Alaska
Village: Hoonah
Object Category: War
Dimensions: Length 40cm
Accession Date: 1907
Source: George T. Emmons (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 012425.000