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Alaska Herpetological Society

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Kiks.adi History

Photograph of Kiks.adi Totem in Wrangell (identified as belonging to Chief Kahlteen). Circa 1890-1910. (Weber 1890-1910)

The Kiks.adi 

The frog is claimed as the crest of the Kiks.adi who claimed it from the fact that persons of their clan had special dealings with these animals although the stories differ between the group in Wrangell and that of Sitka (Swanton 1908). The Ganax’adi of Tongas tell the same story as the Wrangell Kiks.adi about the marriage of a woman of their clan to a frog and may also claim this animal crest (Swanton 1908). Swanton (1908) tells us that “in recent years the Qa’tcadi (Kaach.adi) at Wrangell and the L'uknax.adi at Sitka have tried to adopt the frog, but in the latter case their attempt to put up the frog carving precipitated a riot." CLICK HERE to learn more about the conflict between the Kiks.adi and the Lúxnax.adi.

The Kiks.adi clan of Wrangell was among the largest and most revered clans of the Raven moiety at that place. Olson (1967) described their name as meaning literally “people of Kiks” which likely refers to an island in the vicinity of Helm’s Bay to the south near Ketchikan. Swanton (1908) goes into further detail, reaffirming this place of origin:

The presence of a Kiks.adi house group at Sanya has been noted, and although composed perhaps of comparatively new settlers at that place, it is said that the family had received its name, People of Kiks, from an island in the vicinity. At any rate it was certainly one of the great clans that moved up from the south, and besides having a Sanya branch, forms the foremost Raven groups at Wrangell and Sitka. They were the first to settle in the latter place. Their antiquity is perhaps indicated by the fact that two of the principal mythological heroes of the Tlingit bear Kiks.adi names. It is said that the wives of some Kiks.adi people once quarreled, and all of one side moved out into a house made of bark, from which circumstance they came to be called Bark-house people (Ti hit tan). At Wrangell the Bark-house people are credited with but one house group, but the Te’neidi of Klawak constitute part of the same clan, their name being merely a variation of Ti hit tan”

In contrast, Olson (1967) also suggests that the Kiks.adi of Wrangell may have traditionally come from the area of a small stream called “Kiks” on the mainland along the Cleveland Peninsula. While some maintain that the Wrangell Kiks.adi are the ancestral group from which the Sitka Kiks.adi were derived, other accounts suggest that it was during the same voyage north that many stopped off permanently in Wrangell (Olson 1967). Despite these discrepancies the Kiks.adi’s eventual importance and influence at Wrangell and Sitka is unquestioned.

Another account by Olson (1967) tells of two separate Kiks.adi lineages in the Stikine region:

The Stikinekwan say that at Wrangell there are two Kiksadi clan lineages. The one line comes from Sitka. The other is descended from a slave girl who was part Tsimshian. This girl was owned by a chief who had a stupid wife who did not know how to manage her household. There came a time of near famine and the slave girl fed the household from food she had prepared and stored. One day some visitors came from Klukwan. The chief was embarrassed, thinking he could not invite them in because he had no food. But the slave girl whispered to him that she had food enough. The visitors were invited in and she served them. The chief sent the visitors away that same night, pleading a press of affairs.

The next morning he called his other slaves and ordered them to bathe the girl, thus "washing her slavery away." He also gave away and destroyed property. He ordered that henceforth no one was to call her a slave, and that he was taking her for a wife. However, the first lineage (from Sitka) regards this second lineage as somewhat besmirched. They claim the second has the brown instead of the black bear as a crest, and that they are somewhat "crazy" or foolish.

In their ancestral homeland among the Sanyakwan the Kiks.adi owned: (1) Boca de Quadra and its arms, (2) Neets Bay (glhdu'naxdeh), (3) the area from around Cape Fox to Portland Canal, including Nakat, Willard, and Fillmore inlets, and (4) Wales and Pearse islands (Olson 1967). Olson also describes the specific areas controlled by the Kiks.adi of the Stikine Kwaan:

In the Stikine area they claimed (1) much of the winter village at Mill Creek (2) a berrying ground on the right bank of the Stikine below the international boundary and (3) a place on the right bank above Telegraph Creek.

In a 1946 testimony for Goldschmidt and Haas (Goldschmidt et al. 1998), Thomas Ukas described the area of Mill creek in the 1880s:

Mill Creek is the place where the first village of the Stikine people was located. Before that time they were scattered in small villages all over, and this was the first winter village for the Kiks.adi and the Kaach.adi. There were still remains of houses in my time. They are building a sawmill there now, and it is ruining the sockeyes. We can no longer fish there.

I have seen many times – the last was 3 years ago – rocks piled up at the mouth of Mill Creek… My father told me that these rocks were traps for fish, used by the Stikine Indians in early days.

The Katete River’s confluence with the Stikine, just on the Canadian side of the border, was the site of a summer village owned by the Kiks.adi where clan members went to “hunt for bear, beaver, goat, and porcupine” and to fish for “cohos, dog salmon, humpies, and king salmon” as well as to collect berries (Goldschmidt et al. 1998). Another village owned by the Kiks.adi between Tahltan and Telegraph in Canada was called Tinah Goon (Paige et al. 2009). Willis Hoagland, a Kiks.adi born in Wrangell in 1876, told about this place:

Our people lived… in the summer, and came down about October. We dried goat meat, beaver, porcupine, cohos, sockeyes, humpies, and dog salmon there… There were many houses there.

Paige et al (2009) adds to the Kiks.adi claims confirming that the clan owned “Wrangell Island itself as well as the south end of Etolin Island” (Paige et al. 2009). The ownership of Wrangell proper included that of Thom’s place, an important fishing area and the site of a modern community. Additional information on this site from Paige et al (2009) includes:

Thoms Lake and Thoms Creek, which flows into the bay known as Thoms Place, belonged to the Kiks.adi people. There are no reported archaeological investigations in the area. It was readily accessible to the people living at the old village site, also known as Old Town, and marked as “deserted village” on maps. Those living at camps along Zimovia Strait from Turn Island to lands south of Old Town could also easily access Thoms Lake. After the arrival of the Americans, and people moved from Old Town into Wrangell, they still returned to Old Town on a seasonal basis to keep gardens and to dry and smoke the salmon they harvested in Thoms Place. Other nearby harvesting sites were Olive Cove (south of Anita Bay on Etolin Island) and Whaletail Cove. In 1897, Thomas Moser estimated the Thoms Creek Sockeye Salmon run at 15,000 to 20,000 salmon, which supplied the Point Highfield cannery located at present day Wrangell. According to testimony given to Goldschmidt and Haas in 1946 (1998:75,157), Wrangell people fished and precessed salmon at Thoms Place and other nearby locations along Zimovia Strait:

There is a sockeye stream on Thoms Creek. In my time, there was a big smoke house there, with 5 different families. It was owned by the Kiks.adi people. The whole Wrangell people used the south end of Wrangell Island… There was a camp at Pat Creek, and just below it, another one on a sand beach. These places were used for drying fish… There were camps at Turn Island and on Wrangell Island, from there on down to Old Town… There used to be a smoke house at Tommy’s place that belonged to the Kiks.adi people. 

 These accounts were compiled by a variety of sources including the following:

Goldschmidt W, Haas T, Thornton T. 1998a. Haa aaní: Univ of Washington Pr.

Olson R. 1967. Social structure and social life of the Tlingit in Alaska: University of California Press.

Paige A, Churchill S, Ratner N, Turek M, Coiley-Kenner P. 2009. Local Knowledge, Harvest Patterns, and Community Uses of Salmon in Wrangell, Alaska.

Swanton JR. 1908. Social condition, beliefs and linguistic relationship of the Tlingit Indians: Kessinger Publishing.

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