Comprehensive List of Tlingit Names for All the Present-Day Communities in Lingít Aaní
For untold thousands of years, the coastline and islands of northwestern North America have been filled with small communities ranging in size from a few dozen to a few hundred people. In Lingít Aaní—the land of the Tlingit people—the same is largely true today: While millions of people now live around the Salish Sea in the Seattle-Vancouver megalopolis, the northern portion of the Northwest Coast—from northern Vancouver Island to Prince William Sound—remains sparsely populated, boasting only a few small cities and many smaller towns and villages.
If you’re not sure where Lingít Aaní is located, I’ve outlined it on the map above. Most of what constitutes Lingít Aaní is now part of the United States (going on 151 years) and is known as Southeast Alaska. There are other Tlingit lands, however, that lie in Canada, in the far northwest of British Columbia and in southern Yukon.
I decided I wanted to make a comprehensive list of every community in Lingít Aaní today, including all municipalities and census-designated places. Nearly all of these communities have names in Lingít that can be found in the book Haa Léelk’w Hás Aaní Saax’ú (Our Grandparents’ Names on the Land)—and I have listed them by those names first.
Haa Léelk’w Hás Aaní Saax’ú is an incredible book, filled with thousands of Lingít place names for villages, islands, streams, inlets, mountains, and all the other geographical features you can think of—all names imbued with deep cultural meaning that were preserved for countless generations. Reading through lists of thousands of place names can be overwhelming, though, so I wanted to make a select list of only the places in Lingít Aaní that are populated communities today. That way, everyone who lives in the region should be able to find the Tlingit name for the place they live.
My list includes 42 communities total: Only 1 is in British Columbia, 3 are in the Yukon, and the remaining 38 in Southeast Alaska, of which 11 are on the mainland and 27 are on the islands of the Alexander Archipelago. I listed all the communities in order of population size according to the 2010 Census, (unless otherwise noted), from the 31,276 people in Dzantik’i Héeni (Juneau) to the 4 people who live in Kax̱.àan (Loring). Only 8 of the communities have over 1,000 inhabitants, while 15 have fewer than 100.
I have also listed the probable English interpretation of the community’s Tlingit name, if known. By my count, 12 of the 42 official English names for these communities are anglicizations of the Tlingit name, while 1 other is a literal translation of the Tlingit name’s meaning into English. That means that most of the communities in Lingít Aaní have names in Lingít that we could be using instead of imposed colonial names. Believe me — it really isn’t that difficult call Juneau Dzantik’i Héeni, or even to say Ḵaachx̱an.áak’w instead of Wrangell. You just have to learn the sounds and practice a few times! (See also: 10 Tlingit Words We Should All Be Using in Southeast Alaska.)
There were, however, five communities on this list that I could not find any Tlingit place names for—Thorne Bay, Hollis, Edna Bay, and Whale Pass, all on or near Prince of Wales Island; and Covenant Life, a religious community near Tlákw.aan (Klukwan). There were three others—Gustavus, Coffman Cove, and Whitestone Logging Camp—where I couldn’t find an exact match, but there was a geographic feature in the immediate vicinity with a name in Lingít, so I used that.
You may also notice there are a few Southeast Alaska communities that are not on the list—Hydaburg, Kasaan, and Hyder. I think it’s fair to say that these places are not part of Lingít Aaní, as they have most likely been part of Haida and Nisga’a territory, respectively, for at least the last few centuries. I did, however, include Tàakw.àani (Metlakatla) on the list, because the founding of New Metlakatla by Tsimshian immigrants to the U.S. only occurred 131 years ago, and there were Tlingit people who lived there after the new community was founded.
Please let me know if there are any mistakes or omissions, and I will update the list right away. Here it is:
1. Dzantik’i Héeni — “Flounder at the Base of the Creek”—Juneau, Alaska mainland, 31,276 people
2. Kichx̱áan—“Near the [Eagle’s] Wing”—Ketchikan, Revillagigedo Island, 13,066 people [borough population not including Saxman]
3. Sheet’ká—“Ocean Side of Shee [Baranof Island]”—Sitka, Baranof Island, 8,881 people
4. Séet Ká—“On the Channel”—Petersburg, Mitkof Island, 2,948 people
5. Ḵaachx̱an.áak’w—“Little Lake Accessible to People”—Wrangell, Wrangell Island, 2,369 people
6. Deishú—“End of the Trail”—Haines, Alaska mainland, 1,713 people
7. Tàakw.àani—“Winter Village”—Metlakatla, Annette Island, 1,405 people
8. Sháan Séet—Craig, Prince of Wales Island, 1,201 people
9. Shg̱agwei—“Rugged/Wrinkled Up [Water]”—Skagway, Alaska mainland, 920 people
10. Xunaa — “Lee of the North Wind” — Hoonah, Chichigof Island, 760 people
11. Lawáak—[named after its founder, Láwa]—Klawock, Prince of Wales Island, 755 people
12. Kóoshdaa Xágu—“Land Otter Sandbar”—Marsh Lake, Yukon, 696 people (2016 Canadian census)
13. Yaawkdáat—“Canoe Rebounded”—Yakutat, Alaska mainland, 662 people
14. Ḵéex̱’—“Going Dry”—Kake, Kupreanof Island, 557 people
15. Thorne Bay, Prince of Wales Island, 471 people (unable to find a place name in Lingít)
16. Aangóon—“Isthmus Town”—Angoon, Admiralty Island, 459 people
17. Áa Tlein—“Big Lake”—Atlin, British Columbia, estimated 400–500 people (not enumerated separately in Canadian census data)
18. Wanachích T’aak Héen—“Stream Back of Wanachích [Pleasant Island]”—Gustavus, Alaska mainland, 442 people
19. T’èesh Ḵwáan Xagu—“Tanning Frame Tribe’s Sand Beach”—Saxman, Revillagigedo Island, 411 people
20. Xunt’i Áa—Mosquito Lake, Alaska mainland, 309 people
21. Nadashaa Héeni—“Water Flowing from Mountain”—Carcross, Yukon, 301 people (2016 Canadian census)
22. Ḵutlkw G̱eeyí—“Mud Bay”—Mud Bay, Alaska mainland, 212 people
23. Tatxánk—Coffman Cove, Prince of Wales Island, 176 people
24. Tlaguwu Aan—“Ancient Village”—Tenakee Springs, Chichagof Island, 131 people
25. Deisleen—“Stream Flows Out [of Lake]”—Teslin, Yukon, 124 people (2016 Canadian census)
26. Nàakig̱èey—“Upstream [Northward]”—Naukati Bay, Prince of Wales Island, 113 people
27. Hollis, Prince of Wales Island, 112 people (unable to find a place name in Lingít)
28. Tlákw.aan—“Eternal Village”—Klukwan, Alaska mainland, 95 people
29. K’udeis X̱’é—“Inside Mouth of K’udeis [Lisianski Strait]”—Pelican, Chichagof Island, 88 people
30. Covenant Life, Alaska mainland, 86 people (unable to find a place name in Lingít)
31. Shee Yat’aḵ.aan—“Village Beside Shee [Baranof Island]”—Port Alexander, Baranof Island, 52 people
32. Lḵoot—“Storehouse”—Lutak, Alaska mainland, 49 people
33. Kél—Port Protection, Prince of Wales Island, 48 people
34. Edna Bay, Kosciusko Island, 42 people (unable to find a place name in Lingít)
35. Whale Pass, Prince of Wales Island, 31 people (unable to find a place name in Lingít)
36. Aansadaak’w—“Village Before”—Kupreanof, Kupreanof Island, 27 people
37. X̱’óot’k’—“Little Rapids”—Elfin Cove, Chichagof Island, 20 people
38. Xutshéeni—“Brown Bear Creek”—Game Creek, Chichagof Island, 18 people
39. Yan Kashada Tináa—“On Top of the Head Copper”—Whitestone Logging Camp, Chichagof Island, 17 people
40. X̱aaséedák’u—“Small Pass through Which the War Party Goes [at High Tide]”—Point Baker, Prince of Wales Island, 15 people
41. Ḵuyeiḵ’ L’e.aan—“[Excursion Inlet’s] Peaceful Village”—Excursion Inlet, Alaska mainland, 12 people
42. Kax̱.àan—“After Something Town”—Loring, Revillagigedo Island, 4 people
Again, please let me know if you see any mistakes or problems with my list. I’d especially love to hear if you know any names in Tlingit for Thorne Bay, Hollis, Covenant Life, Edna Bay, or Whale Pass. I hope this list will serve as a useful reference, and as a reminder of the rich linguistic and cultural heritage that exists in this unique and beautiful region of the world.