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Tlingit National Anthem as retolded by Robert Willard Jr. (Raven/Beaver caln elder)

This is the story of the Tlingit National Anthem, a song that entwines our people with their past and keeps our ancient heritage alive. At potlatch ceremonies, Tlingit elders sing the anthem and tell how it came about-for many years in secret, for this ritual was long forbidden by the government-always passing the story on to the new generations.

Long ago, the Tlingit Indians lived in the area now called British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. They decided to move from this region of lakes to the great ocean-now called the Pacific-where they heard the fish were abundant. When all of the clans had assembled, they began a great trek through the mountain canyons leading to the sea.

After many, many miles, the way was blocked by a glacier that filled the canyon. To go back in search of a different route would be a long and wasting journey, so the leaders, both women and men, climbed the mountain to look for a safe way around the ice; there was none. But they saw a stream, flowing from the narrow mouth of the glacier, which emptied into a great bay on the distant side. The passage under the glacier seemed too dangerous, the ice caverns too narrow to pass through. Determined to continue the migration to the ocean, the leaders met to plot a new course.

Then, four woman stepped forward and volunteered to journey beneath the glacier. Two were barren, one was a widow, and the fourth was well along in years. Because the women had no children to nurture and protect, the leaders agreed to their risky plan. So the men built a raft of logs and the woman set forth early next morning. With renewed hopes the leaders once again climbed the mountain, keeping watch all morning and into the afternoon.

Toward evening, they heard distant voices calling from the bay. It was the four woman, waving their arms and shouting "We made it, we made it through, under the ice." Then, the youngest and strongest of the Tlingits set out for the other side. When they arrived, they began building large boats for the next part of the journey, and explored the region beyond the glacier for a safe place abundant in resources. Then, all of the Tlingit people followed behind them. After three days and three nights, they came through the ice caverns. So, they set up camps and rested.

The next day, the people asked the great spirit to be with them. They decided to row in all directions and settle as much unoccupied territory as possible. It was a sad, sad day as the people sang good-bye to their uncles and aunts and cousins and friends. They wept as they rowed, but it was the beginning of the Tlingit Nation, which today occupies more than twenty-three million aces of land and water in Southeast Alaska.

Juneau City & Glacier Tour - Goldbelt Tourism

Frozen in time...At the end of November 2000, David Blaine spent 3 days and 3 nights encased in a massive solid block of  Alaskan Glacier ice in New York City's Times Square. David Blaine's homepage 

In Memorium: Robert Willard Jr. (Raven/Beaver Clan Elder) by Val Cooday. Robert Willard Jr. was the inspiration for 'Tlingit National Anthem: Alaska Natives Online' web site.

"On June 1, 2001  Robert Williard Jr. quietly passed away.  I went to his memorial service on Thursday.  I gave Desa a hug and gave her our condolences. It was such a sad service. He truly was a great man. He was a quiet man but he was great in his knowledge and of trying to help his people. He stepped in where ever he could to help our people. He was one of the last few people to try to help the landless. He will be a great loss to the natives of southeast. He was a great native rights advocate. There was alot of people there including people from Murkowski's office, the Governor's office, the Lt Governors office, AFN, SEAHRC, Central Council, legislators, everyone was there."


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Copyright Oct 1996-2009 Jesse Cooday (Shoowee Ka')

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