Photograph by Harlan I. Smith, August 26, 1909
From a glass plate
Image 46168, American Museum of Natural History Library

The enclosures and marble monuments bearing crest imagery that dominate this view of the Tlingit graveyard at Klukwan had recently replaced previous wooden grave houses, one of which remains on the right. Shifts in Tlingit mortuary rites resulted from the increasing conversion efforts of Christian missionaries, yet this cemetery landscape reflects the maintenance of Native social values despite accommodation to Euro-American aesthetics and funerary practices. Harlan I. Smith noted that Tlingit families often hired non-Native artisans to produce headstones based on detailed instructions as to the specific hereditary iconography, thereby inverting the typical colonial relations of wage labor. The wooden Frog House grave marker seen here was erected by a relatively new clan in order to consolidate their status among well-established rivals; it too was soon replaced with a marble monument that more permanently enshrined their claims. Burial practices thus became a contested—and highly creative—means for managing both the colonial encounter and intracultural dynamics of memory and power.

Click here for a discussion about this object (Lyle Wilson)

Tags for Interactive Tag Cloud: Christianity, indigenization, mortuary, repurposing