/tling"git/, n., pl. Tlingits, (esp. collectively) Tlingit.
1. a member of any of a number of American Indian peoples of the coastal regions of southern Alaska and northern British Colmbia.
2. the language of the Tlingit, a Na-Dene language.

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Northernmost group of Northwest Coast Indian peoples who inhabit the islands and coast of southern Alaska, U.S. The Tlingit language is thought to be related to Athabaskan.

The basic social unit was the lineage, based on maternal lines of descent; clans and larger units (moieties) were also important. Each lineage had its own chief, owned and exploited lands of economic importance, and functioned as a ceremonial unit. The economy was based on salmon fishing, though sea and land mammals were also hunted. Wood, often decorated with stylized designs, was used for houses, totem poles, canoes, dishes, and other objects. The potlatch marked a cycle of rituals mourning the death of a chief. The Tlingit number about 20,000.

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      northernmost of the Northwest Coast Indians (Northwest Coast Indian) of North America, living on the islands and coastal lands of southern Alaska from Yakutat Bay to Cape Fox. They spoke the Tlingit language, which is related to Athabaskan. According to their traditions, some of their ancestors came from the south and others migrated to the coast from the Canadian interior.

 Traditional Tlingit society included three levels of kinship organization. Every individual belonged to one of two moieties, the largest kin group. Each moiety comprised several clans, and the members of a given clan attributed their origin to a common legendary ancestor. The most basic and important organizational level was the lineage, an extended family group related through maternal descent. Each lineage was essentially self-sufficient: it owned a specific territory, could conduct ceremonies, was politically independent, and had its own leaders. There was rarely a leader or authority over the entire tribe; lineages might cooperate during periods of war and choose a temporary leader for that purpose, but there was no compulsion to join such alliances. During the historic period there was a tendency for two or more lineages to consolidate into unified villages, but before contact with Europeans each lineage probably had its own village.

 The traditional Tlingit economy was based on fishing; salmon was the main source of food. The Tlingit also hunted sea, and sometimes land, mammals. Wood was the primary material for manufacture and was used for houses, memorial (totem) poles, canoes, dishes, utensils, and other objects. Large permanent houses were built near good fishing grounds and safe landing places for canoes, often along the beaches of a bay sheltered from the tides. These houses were winter residences; during the summer, inhabitants dispersed to take advantage of more-distant fishing and hunting grounds. Potlatches (potlatch), or ceremonial distributions of gifts, marked a cycle of rituals mourning the death of a lineage chief.

      Early 21st-century population estimates indicated some 22,000 individuals of Tlingit descent.

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Universalium. 2010.

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