Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Neck ring

kas e’k’w “neck cord worn for dancing”
Language: Lingít

The chief’s daughter had a little boy who proved to be very smart and became a great hunter…One time he fell from the top of a mountain and lost consciousness, and, when he came to, he saw many men standing around him in a circle. They had cedar-bark rings around their heads and necks. They said to him, “What kind of spirit do you want, the Raven spirit or the Wolf spirit?”

—From the story “Raven,” told by Katishan, in “Tlingit Myths and Legends,” 1909

Katishan’s narrative is about the origin of the southern Tlingit “secret societies,” whose members wore ermine headdresses and cedar bark rings at potlatches where they performed rituals of spirit possession. These societies – called Dancer, Destroyer, and other names - originated in Canada among the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) and spread north to the Bella Bella, Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit a short time before contact with Europeans. Today, potlatch song leaders wear the bark rings. This ring of cedar bark rope is adorned with two carved crests, Wolf and Eagle.

Culture: Tlingit
Region: Admiralty Island, Southeast Alaska
Village: Kootznahoo (Letushkwin)
Object Category: Clothing
Dimensions: Length 38.3cm
Accession Date: 1882
Source: John J. McLean (collector, U.S. Signal Service)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E060224