Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI receives grant to document traditional protocols for removal of grief

<<back to news page


Institute to work with traditional scholars, clan leaders to produce book

Aug. 20, 2021

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has received a grant from a Colorado organization to record the ancient practice of removing grief through Tlingit ceremonies known as ku.éex’.

The $28,000 grant from the First Nations Development Institute of Longmont will allow SHI to work with its Council of Traditional Scholars and other traditional scholars and clan leaders to document the “Removal of Grief” ceremony held during a ku.éex’ (sometimes called payoff parties or potlaches), which are held roughly one year after a tribal member passes away.

This ancient practice is a significant component in ceremonies today, but Elders have worried the knowledge of how to conduct the rite is fading. The ceremony is an integral part of Tlingit mourning practices that helps maintain social and spiritual balance, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“This ceremony is an important milestone in our mortuary complex and marks the period when clans makes speeches and sing songs to remove the pain of the opposite clan. Clans also display their at.óowu (sacred objects) to evoke the spirits of the ancestors,” said Worl, also a Tlingit anthropologist.

SHI will work with Tlingit linguists to ensure proper orthography and distribute the final document to tribal members. The materials will also be made available through the institute’s library and archives.

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.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Media and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

Caption: Clan at.óowu displayed just prior to a “Removal of Grief” ceremony for a Shangukeidí clan member in Klukwan, 2013. Photo by Kathy Dye, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Note: News outlets are welcome and encouraged to use these photos for coverage of this story. For higher-resolution images, contact