Tlingit (tlĭngˈgĭt) [key], group of related Native North American tribes, speaking a language that forms a branch of the Nadene linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The 14 divisions of the Tlingit may reflect a former era when they were entirely independent tribes. Important among the divisions are the Chilkat, the Yakutat, the Stikine, the Sitka, the Auk, and the Huna. In 1741, when visited by Aleksei Chirikov and Vitus Bering, the Tlingit lived in SE Alaska, along the coast and on the islands around Sitka, S to Prince of Wales Island and N to the Copper River. The Russians built (1799) a fort near the site of Sitka, but the indigenous inhabitants drove them out. Aleksandr Baranov, however, later captured the fort, killing many native people. He established a trading post there, which grew into Sitka. There was constant strife between the Tlingit and the Russians in the early 19th cent. In 1990 there were about 14,400 Tlingit in the United States, mostly in native villages in Alaska. Around 1,200 live on reserves in British Columbia and Yukon. Tlingit culture, like that of the Haida and the Tsimshian, was typical of the Northwest Coast area (see under Natives, North American). Some of their finely carved totem poles survive, and the Tlingit still carry on many of their traditional dances. The name is also spelled Tlinget, Tlinkit, and Tlinket.
See L. Jones, A Study of the Tlingets of Alaska (1914, repr. 1970); T. M. Durlach, The Relationship Systems of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian (1928, repr. 1974); R. L. Olsen, Social Structure and Social Life of the Tlingit in Alaska (1967); F. De Laguna, Under Mount Saint Elias (1972).