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The Way of the Warrior

The fourth lecture in Sealaska Heritage’s Native Heritage Month Lecture Series was led by Kai Monture of Yakutat, who spoke Tuesday about traditional warrior training as he learned of it in his clan, K'ineix Kwáan. Dressed in his own leather and slat armor, Monture began by singing an Honor Song as a way to acknowledge the contributions of Tlingit warriors past and present. Throughout his 90-minute talk, Monture emphasized that the warrior training he described was based on his own experience, as he was taught by his grandfather, George Ramos, and by his uncle and other Elders.

Monture described the training process for boys beginning at age 6, overseen by their maternal uncles. The training was harsh, and included going into the water every morning regardless of the season, fierce competition with other boys, and weapons training. However, warrior training was never limited to the physical realm, Monture said.

“At the same time as these boys were being trained so rigorously every day, they were also begin taught social lessons by their uncles…,” Monture said. “Boys were taught to think critically through these lessons.” They learned by hearing parables, by studying the characteristics of different animals, and by hearing stories about clan heroes and Tlingit heroes, exemplified by Dukt'ootl’, the Strong Man. Warrior training shaped the boys’ lives and actions, giving them a “philosophy of living.”

Monture concluded his talk with a list of the five elements of the warrior code, as translated from the Tlingit by his grandfather:

1. Never make yourself ‘heavier’ than others
 2. Be humble before your people
 3. Reach for the hand of your fellow man and pick him up
 4. Always protect your people
 5. Fight to the last breath

Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott, who introduced Monture, said that Monture and his family embody the Tlingit core value of Haa Shuká, honoring ancestors and future generations. Mallott also spoke about the importance of modern day warriors in Tlingit culture – from the language warriors who are ensuring the survival of the Tlingit language, to the artists who are passing on ancient artforms and techniques, to the social and policy warriors who have worked through the Alaska Native Sisterhood and Alaska Native Brotherhood for more than 100 years to create change.

“That warrior spirit is absolutely carried forward,” Mallott said.

The last lecture in the 2016 series will be Thursday, Dec. 1, with Steve Henrikson. The annual series is presented by SHI and Sealaska. For more, visit (Photo by Brian Wallace)

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars and a Native Artists Committee. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.