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Chilkat Territory, Southeast Alaska, ca 1890
Klukwan, Alaska, 1986
Biography synopsis
Jennie Thlunaut, born Shax'saani Kéek ('Younger Sister of the Girls'), was a First Nations Northwest Coast weaver who was a member of the Tlingit tribe. After the death of her first husband, she remarried John Mark Thlunaut in 1922. One of the last Chilkat weavers, Thlunaut became famous for her detailed robes and blankets which she learned to create from her mother. Chilkat blanket weaving was traditionally made from dyed goats' wool. Thlunaut's blankets were decorated with animal crests, which were symbolic of tribal affiliations and worn during ceremonies. She also practiced beadwork and spruce root basket making. In 1985, the Canada Council for the Arts sent a delegation of First Nations weavers to study under Thlunaut and master the art of Chilkat weaving, an art form which was being lost. The group later became known as the Shax'saani Kéek Weavers and was assembled by the Canada Council's Aboriginal Peoples' Collaborative Exchange program in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. For her lifetime of artistic achievements and her contribution to Chilkat culture, Thlunaut was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship in 1986. Her work has been featured in museums across Canada and the United States.
Media used
Basket making
File & Archive locations
Library and Archives Canada, ON - Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana
Alaska State Library
Smithsonian Institution, DC - National Anthropological Archives
University of Alaska - Fairbanks Library
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC

Writings about
Alaska Native Magazine 4.1-6.1 (1985): 160-162
K-12 Visual Arts Curriculum: Juneau School District. (Sept. 2005)
Brown, Steven C. Native Visions: Evolution in Northwest Coast Art from the Eighteenth Through the Twentieth Century. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998
Busby, Sharon. Spruce Root Basketry of the Haida and Tlingit. Seattle: Marquand Books, 2003
Chandonnet, Ann. "Preserving the Tlingit 'Fringe About the Body'." Juneau Empire (21 Apr. 2004)
Dauenhauer, Nora. The Droning Shaman: Poems. Hains, Alaska: Black Current Press, 1988
Dauenhauer, Nora & Richard. Haa Kusteeyi, Our Culture: Tlingit Life Stories. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994
Dauenhauer, Nora & Richard. Haa Tuwunaagu Yis, For Healing Our Spirit: Tlingit Oratory. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990
Dunham, Mike. "Blanket Maker Expands Traditional Art Form." Bay Area News Group (25 Jul. 2009): E7
Everett, Deborah & Zorn, Elayne. Encyclopedia of Native American Artists. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2008
Fienup-Riordan, Ann et al. The Artists Behind the Work: Life Histories of Nick Charles, Sr., Frances Dementieff, Lena Sours, Jennie Thlunaut. Fairbanks, Alaska: University of Alaska Museum, 1986
Fitzhugh, William W. et al. Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988
Govenar, Alan B. Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO, 2001
Gulliford, Andrew. Sacred Objects and Sacred Places: Preserving Tribal Traditions. Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2000
Haycox, Stephen. "The Great Land: Reflections on Alaska (Review)." Environmental History Review 19.1 (Spring 1995): 116-117
Hedin, Robert & Holthaus, Gary H. The Great Land: Reflections on Alaska. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1994
Henrikson, S. "Jennie Thlunaut." American Indian Art Magazine 21.1 (Winter 1995): 98-99
Herzer, Scott. "The Great Land: Reflections on Alaska (Review)." Manoa 7.2 (Winter 1995): 219
Hume, Helen D. The Art Lover's Almanac: Serious Trivia for the Novice and the Connoisseur. Jossey-Bass, 2003
Jonaitis, Aldona. Art of the Northwest Coast. Seattle: University of Washington, 2006
Kardon, Janet & Coe, Ralph T. Revivals! Diverse Traditions, 1920-1945: The History of Twentieth-Century American Craft. H.N. Abrams & American Craft Museum, 1994
Moore, Emily L. Chilkat Tunics: Toward a Reassessment of the Configurative. Berkeley, California: University of California, 2007
Schneider, William. ... So They Understand: Cultural Issues in Oral History. Utah State University Press, 2002
Scollon, Suzanne. In Memory of Jennie Thlunaut, 1890-1996. Juneau, Alaska: Sealaska Heritage Foundation, 1988
Seattle Art Museum. The Spirit Within. Seattle: Rizzoli, 1995
Sheldon Jackson Museum. "March Artifact of the Month: Tlingit Spruce Root Basket." Alaska State Museums (25 Feb. 2008)
Siporin, Steve & Monteaux, Michel. American Folk Masters: The National Heritage Fellows. H.N. Abrams, 1992
Toelken, Barre. The Anguish of Snails: Native American Folklore in the West. Utah State University Press, 2003
Victor-Howe, Anne-Marie. "Haa Kusteeyi, Our Culture: Tlingit Life Stories." American Ethnologist 23.1 (Feb. 1996): 176-177
Worl, Rosita et al. Celebration: Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian Dancing on the Land. Sealaska Heritage Institute, 2008

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