Sealaska Heritage


David Katzeek Memorial — A Virtual Cultural Ceremony

David Katzeek Kingeistí, Shangukeidí clan

(Watch Ceremony) (About the Ceremony) (Program) (Obituary) (Memorial Flyer)

 A virtual memorial ceremony has been scheduled for Shangukeidí (Thunderbird) Clan Leader David Katzeek, who Walked Into the Forest on Oct. 28 at the age of 77. Because of David Katzeek’s significant cultural contributions and decades of service to Southeast Alaska Natives, cultural leaders representing both Eagle and Raven clans met to plan a virtual memorial ceremony with the technical assistance of Sealaska Heritage Institute.

The event marks the first time a traditional memorial ceremony will be held virtually in order to keep the clan leaders, family members and well-wishers safe during the pandemic.  The memorial is scheduled at 3 pm, Thursday, Nov. 5, and will be streamed live on SHI’s YouTube channel. The ceremony is open to the community as we honor David in a safe and virtual format. 

About the Ceremony

Because of David Katzeek’s significant cultural contributions and decades of service to Southeast Alaska Natives, cultural leaders representing both Eagle and Raven clans met to plan a virtual memorial ceremony with the technical assistance of Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI). The event marks the first time a traditional memorial ceremony will be held virtually in order to keep the clan leaders, family members and well-wishers safe during the pandemic. 

The Tlingit maintain a clan-based society in which the clans are divided between two moieties--Raven and Eagle. They are considered to be opposites. A major cultural value, Wooch Yá, requires that the Tlingit maintain social and spiritual balance between clans of the opposite moiety to ensure harmony and well-being of the society.  Thus, if a Raven clan member speaks, chants, or sings, an Eagle clan member is required to respond. 

Wooch Yá is clearly evident in the Tlingit memorial rite. Upon the death of an individual, a cultural ceremony is held in which members of the opposite clans of the deceased offer words of condolence and comfort to the grieving clans. This is followed by a response from the grieving clans. 

The Shangukeidí clan of the Eagle moiety has lost their beloved clan leader, Kingeistí. They are joined by their sister Eagle clans in mourning. Raven clans, that have a close relationship with the Shangukeidí clan, offer words of comfort to the Eagle clans and the Shangukeidí.  In response, the Eagle clans and the Shangukeidí respond by thanking the Ravens for their words of comfort. 

Naa Káani (Clan In-Law)

When a clan hosts an event, a member of the opposite clan is requested to serve as the Naa Káani, which is similar to that of a moderator in Western societies.  The  Naa Káani is someone who interrelated as an in-law with the host clan.  In this event, the Shangukeidí have selected Paul Marks, who is Raven of the Lukaax.ádi clan.    



Yéil Yádi (David Sheakley-Early), T’aḵdeintaan: YouTube Opening and Explanation
Ḵinkawduneek (Paul Marks), Lukaax̱.ádi, Naa Káani: Opening Prayer and Comments
Sa.áax̱w (Margaret Katzeek) and Ḵaaséi (Aaron Katzeek), G̱aanax̱teidí: Eulogy
L’úkgu Éesh (Ozzie Sheakley): List of Shangukeidí Deceased
Tya Noché (George Montero): Shangukeidí Eagle Chant
Yeilnaawú (Joe Zuboff): Deisheetaan Clan Raven Chant

Dignitaries and Community Leaders

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy
Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Deisheetaan
U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, G̱aanax̱teidí
Dr. Elizabeth Siddon, President, Juneau Board of Education
Joe Nelson (Kaaxúxgu), Chair, Sealaska
Anthony Mallott, President and CEO, Sealaska
Richard Peterson (Chalyee Éesh), President, Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska
Albert Kookesh, Vice Chair, Sealaska Heritage Institute
Karen Taug, Board of Directors, Gold Belt Heritage Foundation

L’eeneidí: Seikóoni (Fran Houston) and Sorrell Goodwin
L’uknax̱.ádi: L’eiwtu Éesh (Herman Davis) (Grandchild of Shangukeidí)
Kiks.ádi: Andy Ebona (Du Daakanóox’u ‘Outer Shell’)
Deisheetaan: Yeilnaawú (Joey Zuboff) (Father’s Clan)
T’aḵdeintaan: Kaax̱ḵaatuklag̱é (Ken Grant) (Grandfather’s Clan)
Lukaax̱.ádi: Yéil Yádi (Nathan Jackson) (Grandfather’s Clan)
G̱aanax̱teidí: Tánk’w (Smitty Katzeek) (Father’s Clan)

Eagle Clan Leaders' and Spokespersons' Response

Yanyeidí: Ooshkaan (Ben Coronell)
Tsaagweidí: Ḵ’anahéik (Todd Antioquia)
Wooshkeetaan: Yaanashtúḵ (Mike Tagaban)
Teiḵweidí: Kuwóot Yas.éin (Dan Brown)
Daḵl’aweidí: Ḵaanatéen (Linda Wynne)
Kaagwaantaan: Gux̱daakashú (Joe Hotch)
Shangukeidí: Ḵáawḵwdelagé (Ed Hotch), L’úkgu Éesh (Ozzie Sheakley), G̱achg̱wéinaa (Ricardo Worl), X̱’alax̱éitl (Marcelo Quinto), Tagóok’ (Dennis Katzeek)


Naakil.aan (Hans Chester) and Seig̱óot (Jessica Chester): TCLL Students Song

Memorial donations on behalf of Kingeestí send to: Aaron Katzeek, 9353 Lakeview Ct., Juneau, Alaska, 99801


Kingeisti, David G. Katzeek — clan leader of the Shangukeidí, founding president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, traditional scholar, orator, and former member of the Sealaska board of directors — unexpectedly Walked into the Forest in Juneau on October 28, 2020. He was 77.         

Kingeisti was a dear friend to many people in the Native and non-Native communities. He was loved for his wisdom, generosity, kindness, and sense of humor. Kingeisti was a fisherman, a wild game hunter, a fan of sports, as well as a football and little league coach to his sons. He went to their games and cheered them on. He was a man of God who worked with Native ministries. He loved downhill skiing in his younger years and bicycling. He loved his electronics and always had the most up-to-date computers, cell phones, cameras.  He loved to study and read. Not only did he know Tlingit, he had an admiration for the Hebrew language and Jewish culture.

Kingeisti was born on Nov. 12, 1942, his place of birth was at 18 mile in a cabin on the Chilkat River’s banks because he was ready to join the family of his People living in Klukwan, Alaska.

He is a Tlingit, Eagle-Thunderbird, from the Shangukeidí clan, Kawdliyaayi Hít (House Lowered From the Sun), and the Shis’g̱i Hít (Tree Bark House) in Chilkat Ḵwáan Klukwan, after his mother, the late Anna Klanott Katzeek. He was a child of the G̱aanax̱teidí after his father, George J. Katzeek, who was a Raven of the Raven-Otter-Whale-Frog House in Klukwan, Alaska.

He learned Lingít as a child from his parents, grandparents, and elders who spoke it at home, where he was deeply immersed in his Tlingit culture and traditions. He attended the Juneau School District for primary, middle and high school and graduated in 1960.  His cultural knowledge was so vast that he was named the clan leader of the Shangukeidí as a young man in the 1970s.

He was also a great traditional orator who spoke in a thunderous voice, as the Chilkats are taught to speak louder than the waterfall behind their village.

He studied business administration and finance at Griswald Business College and worked in the field from 1969-1982, serving as the assistant comptroller for the Sisters of Saint Ann’s Hospital and as a tax auditor and fiscal officer for the City and Borough of Juneau.  Like many young educated Natives in the 1970s, David was involved with the evolution of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. He served on the Sealaska board of directors from 1979-1981, and in 1982, he was made the founding president and CEO of the nonprofit Sealaska Heritage Foundation (now called Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI)).

Under the direction of Elders, Kingeisti spearheaded SHI’s first Celebration—a dance-and-culture festival—in 1982. That marked the first time the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian gathered together under one roof and the first time they shared their ancient songs and dances in such a public way. Under his leadership and that of SHI’s trustees, Celebration grew into a biennial event that is now one of the largest cultural events in the state. Celebration today is largely credited with revitalizing Native practices and passing the knowledge on to succeeding generations.

Kingeisti was highly valued in the Tlingit community for his deep knowledge of the language, culture, and ancient traditional protocols that maintain or restore balance. He was passionate about passing on his knowledge to Native people, children, and the general public, and he was a gifted teacher. He had a talent for reaching people of all ages, especially children and young adults, who would pay keen attention to him when he spoke. He was a beloved Elder who taught language, stories, and songs to children through SHI’s Baby Raven Reads early literacy program.

He taught Lingít at the Juneau School District and at the University of Alaska Southeast. He was recognized by the Juneau School District and the Alaska Legislature in 2019 for his work with the Tlingit Culture, Language, and Literacy program. A Juneau Empire article about this honor quoted Katzeek expressing his relationship to Lingít as follows:

“When I begin to look at the root of a word, and really get in connection with the word, the intimacy, the admiration of a word, and how it was placed. Almost like an artist placing something, to enhance something someone else might experience. I sense the presence of my ancestors … when I start reading something, looking at something that came from my grandfather’s people, I’m listening to their heartbeat, that’s the reason I like what I do.”

For the past decade, he served on SHI’s Council of Traditional Scholars, where he imparted his knowledge and wisdom and helped guide the institute’s cultural and educational programming. As president of SHI, he supported the early work of late authors and scholars Nora and Richard Dauenhauer on their landmark series “Tlingit Oral Literature,” which was published by Sealaska Heritage, and after leaving SHI, he provided Lingít recordings for SHI’s Baby Raven Reads book series and language apps. He also provided example sentences and audio recordings for SHI’s Dictionary of Tlingit. Much of his work lives on in SHI’s archives, through which he will continue to teach future generations.

Time and time again, the Native community called on Kingeisti to help the Western world understand the Tlingit worldview, laws, and ways of being. He played a key role in repatriating cultural objects taken illegally from Klukwan, Alaska. He also helped clans bring back their at.óowu (sacred objects) from museums by meeting with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) Repatriation Committee and expertly describing the cultural significance of objects of cultural patrimony.

Through his company, Katzeek & Associates, he worked as an administrative and cultural consultant to many other Native organizations, including Alaska Native regional and village corporations, the Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 2, the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska, the Juneau Tlingit and Haida Community Council, and Goldbelt Heritage Foundation. He also helped organize the North Slope Borough.

He is survived by his brothers, Dennis Katzeek (Janice Katzeek), Daniel Katzeek; his children, Sheryl Contreras, John Sr., Brian, David Jr. (Henryietta Soboleff), Shaan, Aaron (Jennifer), Margaret (Cer Scott), Israel Katzeek and Luke Greenough-Katzeek; his grandchildren, Moises Jr. (Cheyenne), Maria, Ricardo, Miguel (Rebekah) Contreras and Cristina (Ian) Smith, John Katzeek Jr., Isaac Stevens, Kellie and Aiyana James, Zachariah and Mason Katzeek, Priscilla, David III, Hailey Katzeek, Elouise Scott, and Elayna and Lennon Katzeek. He is also survived by many, many great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.