Oral Traditions


Developed by members of the ECHO Storytelling Curriculum Committee, 2006

Enduring Understandings

This video and text explore the interconnections of story and dance in the Tlingit culture of Southeastern Alaska. Its big ideas are:

  1. Oral traditions tell us who we are and where we came from.
  2. Oral traditions communicate important cultural values.
  3. The Tlingit people use art, song, dance, and story to express their identity.


Who are the Tlingit People?

The Tlingit people of Southeastern Alaska (shown on this map in green, along with close cultural relatives the Haida, Tsimshian, and Eyak peoples) live in a lush rainforest.

This video, adapted from material provided by the ECHO partners, features Cecilia Kunz, a Native elder from the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska, who describes how stories are passed on among her people. Although the Tlingit language is now written, and virtually all Tlingits are literate, they continue to pass on their stories orally. Cecilia Kunz illuminates how dance, clothing, traditional objects like totem poles, and events like potlatches all become means of transmitting and preserving stories.