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Old 19th June 2011, 09:21 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
 
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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Looking at this beautiful dagger I was compelled to search for more information. One of the greatest things to me about these weapons is learning from them, and it is exciting when information accompanies them, so heres what I found.

It seemed unusual from the examples I found, that this one had such perfectly symmetrical flutes rather than the usual midrib in the blade.
While some Tlingit daggers are dual blades like this (somewhat reminiscent of the Indian, Syrian, Sudanese haladie) others are with single blade and with two somewhat voluted arms extended up and outward from the opposite end of the grip.

The leather straps wrapped on the grip are part of a lanyard or tether which is usually wrapped about the body and wrist, these daggers are sheathed and worn at the chest.

This example is intriguing, not just by the superior quality metalwork and fluted blades, but the copper cuffs at the blade roots. These would suggest a weapon intended to reflect wealth or status, which this certainly appears to be. As I was amazed by the apparant skill of the maker, I wondered at what point the tribes began the use of iron over copper for blades.

I found this entry on the Tlingit daggers in "The American Indian" , A. Hyatt Verrill, N.Y. 1927, p.374,
"...the war knives or daggers were most remarkable. Originally these were made of native copper, hammered and ground into shape; but with the arrival of white men this metal was discarded in favor of steel. Securing old files by trade with the whites, these Indians softened, cut, ground and worked the steel into the most beautifully made and highly finished double edged knives. Often these are deeply fluted along the blade; not infrequently they are inlaid with silver or copper, and occasionally one is seen with the steel blade welded to a copper section near the handle".

It is worthy of note that this material was written in 1927, long before the considerable expansion in these Northwest regions and before widespread collecting of these rather esoteric items became popular, so it increases the likelihood of describing weapons actually still in use contemporarily. I would suggest this dagger corresponds more with these earlier known types and would fall into the 'real deal' category!

Excellent reading concerning the Tlingit, and to some extent the weapons can be found in:

"Crossroads of Continents" Ed. William Fitzhugh and A, Crowell, 1988 which has the paper, "Tlingit: People of the Wolf and the Raven" by Fredrick de Luna.

"The Evolution of Tlingit Daggers", Ashley Kristen Verplank, University of Washington thesis, 2009

"Keepers of the Totem" Time'Life books, 1993

"Metallurgy of the Tlingit, Dene, and Eskimo" John Witthoft & Frances Eyman, 'Expedition" Spring 1969

I'm glad this outstanding dagger was shared here, and I hope this information will be somewhat helpful in learning more about these daggers and the tribes who used them.

All best regards,
Jim
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