Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Chief’s coat

deniigi zes dghaec “Chief’s coat”
Language: Ahtna

On the Koyukuk River the men who have inherited coats like this, they wear them on special days like holidays, during New Year’s.

—Eliza Jones, 2004

At Athabascan potlatches and other special occasions, men of influence, wealth, and oratorical skill – “big, strong people,” in one Elder’s phrase – wear dentalium-shell necklaces and beaded moose-hide jackets known as chiefs’ coats. This example is from the Ahtna. The coats, usually trimmed with beaver or otter fur, are symbols of personal prestige and connection to ancestors. Trimble Gilbert said that when a young man is about to assume leadership in his community his grandmother will make him a jacket like this to put on in front of a gathering of the people, “so everybody will know he will be the chief.”

Culture: Athabascan
Region: Copper River, Alaska
Object Category: Clothing
Dimensions: Width 149cm
Accession Date: 1949
Source: Museum Purchase
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 214801.000