Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI acquires Raven hat made by master Tlingit artist

<<back to news page


Hat to be unveiled to the public this week during First Friday

June 6, 2019

(Nathan Jackson Bio)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has purchased a new Raven hat by artist Nathan Jackson, one of the most renowned and internationally-recognized Tlingit artists of his generation.

The red-cedar hat, which was carved this year, is traditional in form and similar to clan crest hats used in ceremonies. The hat tells of an event that happened during the migration of the Raven Lukaax.ádi clan, when a segment of the people separated and traveled southward, while the main body of the clan moved north to eventually settle in the Chilkoot area.

The hat features inlaid abalone eyes, deer hide straps, ermine and four “potlatch rings” on top that were woven by the celebrated late Haida weaver Selina Peratrovich.

Jackson, leader of the Lukaax.ádi clan whose Tlingit name is Yéil Yádi,  is esteemed in the Native community for his mastery of Northwest Coast art and for his willingness to teach the art form to succeeding generations. He learned to carve at a time when knowledge of traditional art practices was in danger of being lost, and he has aimed to ensure that the knowledge is passed on.

He is so highly regarded, SHI named its main exhibit space, the Nathan Jackson Gallery, in his honor in 2015. SHI considers the hat to be a very significant addition to its collection because it is a contemporary piece made by a living master of Tlingit carving in the ancient formline tradition, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“Nathan Jackson is the preeminent, living Tlingit artist working in the traditional Tlingit style, and this piece reflects his mastery,” Worl said. “We also have to acknowledge that Nathan’s artistic career began with the study of modern art. His work is priceless to us and will benefit future generations of artists, scholars and the viewing public.”

The recognition by clans of artists who make cultural objects is a relatively new practice. Historically, clans hired members of the opposite moiety to make pieces, and while Native people always prized aesthetics, the artists’ were not publicly acknowledged, nor were their names associated with clan at.óowu. Jackson was at the forefront of a new era, when Native artists began to be recognized.

The hat, which SHI will unveil to the public this week during First Friday, will be on display at Sealaska Heritage along with Yéil Yádi—Raven Child: A Nathan Jackson Retrospective. The exhibit, which was curated by Steve Brown and opened in April, shows Jackson’s work from his earliest productions to his most recent, beginning from the early 1960s and spanning to the present day.

The exhibit will be open to the public free of charge from 4:30-7 pm during First Friday. Everyone is welcome.

The hat was purchased with the support of the Rasmuson Foundation and with the assistance of Museums Alaska.  

Nathan Jackson Bio

Nathan Jackson is one of the most renowned Tlingit artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and is recognized internationally for his work. He is an artist practicing in the Tlingit Northwest Coast formline tradition as a woodcarver, jewelry maker, and designer. Jackson learned to carve in the 1960s at a time when knowledge of traditional art practices was in danger of being lost, and he has worked for most of his life to perpetuate Northwest Coast art, which is unique in the world. Jackson attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and returned to his home in Haines in 1964 where he began working with Alaska Indian Arts, Inc.  In 1967, he traveled to Hazelton, B.C., as a carver, and met Duane Pasco who inspired him to start his career as an artist.  Since 1967, Jackson has been a freelance artist doing traditional style woodcarving, jewelry, and design, usually on a commission basis.  Jackson’s artwork is on display in every major museum in the state of Alaska, as well as in public facilities, corporate offices, and universities in Anchorage, Juneau, and Ketchikan, and the Sitka National Historical Park.  His panels and totem poles can be found in major museums in the United States as well as in Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan.  He has a long association with the Totem Heritage Park in Ketchikan where his workshop is located. In 1988, Nathan received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the University of Alaska, Southeast. In 1995, he was one of 12 recipients of a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship award, the nation’s highest honor in traditional arts.  In 2009, Nathan was honored as the Rasmuson Foundation’s Distinguished Artist of the Year.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research 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, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.