Tlingit Armor

The Tlingit were formidable warriors. In their large wooden helmets carved with clan crests or a ferocious human face, they were a fearsome sight to their enemies. Their armor consisted of heavy wooden collars and wooden slates or rods to cover their bodies. They were armed with daggers, spears, and war clubs.

Tlingit armor consisted of a helmet and wooden collar that protected the head and neck, and a sleeveless coat of heavy hide which reached to, or just below, the hips. These coats were sometimes reinforced by wooden slat armor that covered the body and additional coverings extending from knee to foot. The warrior peered out through slots that were cut into the space between the wooden helmet and collar.

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    Parts of the Tlingit Armor

    HELMET

    Helmets were designed to protect a warrior’s head from traditional weaponry used in battle.  The helmet was designed to provoke fear among the enemy and often depicted the face of a crest figure, a human, or an animal.  This particular war helmet is a replica of a helmet that resides in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History collections.

    COLLAR

    War collars were used to shield the warrior’s lower face and neck.

    ARMOR

    Body armor protected a warrior’s chest and limbs and was typically made from hide and wood.

    WEAPONRY

    Tlingit warriors were armed with daggers, spears, and war clubs.

    The Tlingit Warrior

    Raven Warrior Print

    This print depicts a Tlingit war party in a war canoe approaching an enemy village in the early nineteenth century.  These types of canoes were designed to shield against certain weaponry such as arrows.

    Artist Bill Holm is internationally recognized as one of the foremost authorities on Northwest Coast, Plateau, and Plains Indian art and art history.  He has published many books including the classic work, Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form (1965).

    1991.  |  Archival ink, paper.  |   Bill Holm
    Warrior’s Mask

    This mask was carved in the 1960s as Tlingit artists entered the tourist trade.  Leo Jacobs was a well-known and respected artist in Haines.

    Wood. |  Leo Jacobs, Sr., Tlingit, L’uknax̱.ád  |  Sealaska Heritage Institute Collection