Merry Christmas from Tlingits Everywhere!
by Ivy and Yolanda Fulmer of Kirkland, Washington and Hoonah, Alaska
shared by Ray Levesque, Eagle/Wolf Clan - Burned House People - Hoonah, Alaska

The European version of the 12 Days of Christmas contains unfamiliar cultural elements, so this song was re-written to reflect Tlingit values and incorporate familiar sights and sounds of our villages.

On the Twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

12   Drummers Drumming

11   Salmon Swimming

10 Hunters Hunting
The hand drum we use ranges from 10 to 24 inches in diameter. We also use the box drum, which somewhat resembles a wooden footlocker with the lid taken off, and then it is tilted on edge and hit on the side. We love our drums. People in Hoonah consider themselves poor if all they have to eat are salmon, because salmon are everywhere. It is our major food, and there is no finer sight and smell than a smokehouse full of salmon! Ten more hunters, please. We used to hunt a lot more. Most of our privileges and traditions have been taken away. So getting "ten hunters hunting" is a dream and wish and hope we hold up highly.

9 Tlingit Dancers

8 Warriors Paddling

7Cedar Baskets
Tlingit dancers come out for potlatches (parties, giveaways), funerals, weddings, clan gatherings, and almost any  excuse to dance we can find. We are different from the powwow dancers because we only know how to dance as a group. We don't have individual dances or competition.
 Our war canoe holds 12 to 16 people. When most of your food comes from the ocean, a big canoe full of warriors, hunting gear and space for the catch, is a very thoughtful Christmas gift. (  Cedar baskets are what we used before tupperware. If you really want to give your true love a gift, the cedar basket will long outlive any amount of Tupperware you could give. If you live in the Northwest, you could even join a basketweaving society and make them by hand!

6 Eagles Soaring

5 Totem Poles

4  Ravens calling
Eagles may be the most common bird in Hoonah, mostly bald eagles. And of course they are the opposite clan to the Ravens. Totem poles tell our stories, or particular events, or honor a person or family. We don't worship them.  If you think that getting "5 golden rings" is valuable, imagine 5 totem poles! That would be worth so much more to us, especially since you can pay $1000 to $1500 per foot for a new totem pole today.  The Raven is a common sight in our village, Hoonah. If you haven't seen one, they look like a crow on steroids. All Tlingits belong to either the Raven Clan or Eagle Clan. So of course we must include Ravens in this song.

3  Button robes

2  Killer Whales


 And a Keidlidee in a pear tree.
 The button robe (commonly called the "button blanket") is worn by all Tlingit dancers, and is common throughout many coastal tribes in the Pacific Northwest, Western Canada and Alaska. It is usually black and red, and yes, has many buttons for the border and sometimes for the crest. The killer whale represents one of our two primary clans. In the past, we actually had a Killer Whale Longhouse that housed many families. (It might be similar to an apartment building today, as opposed to individual family dwellings). Our crests and clan names describe where we came from (genealogy), and are never worshipped. The Keidlidee is a bird that resembles a small seagull.

With all these explanations, you can now comfortably learn and sing the Tlingit version wherever you live -- be our guest.
Photo credits

olga norris

Messages from the PeopleNative Village Home Page