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Irene Jimmy
Irene Jimmy

Irene Jimmy was interviewed on December 17, 1998 by Kristen Griffin and Robi Craig at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska office in Sitka, Alaska. She was in her early sixties, and was in good health from a lifestyle that included harvesting her own berries, fish, and spruce roots that she carefully prepared to use in her weaving projects. She spoke as a conscientious and thoughtful person respectful of traditional Tlingit protocol and the necessity of watching one's words for the damage that words can inflict if not measured and delivered with care. In this interview, Irene talks about her and her family's and clan's connections to Sitka National Historical Park, including harvesting spruce roots and berries there as a child with her mother, and says that she is grateful to the Park Service for its preservation and public access policies, because it is a location that is sacred to the Kiks.ádi clan. She also discusses her work as a weaver, the revival of traditional Tlingit art forms, the important role the park has played in the preservation of Tlingit art, and the history of the Tlingit and Russian battles in Sitka. Irene recalls as a child attending one of the memorial potlatches that was held at the Fort Site to recognize the Kiks.ádi clan's losses and standing in a circle and tearing cloth in memory of the clan members who lost their lives in the 1804 Battle.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 98-39-06

Project: Sitka National Historical Park
Date of Interview: Dec 17, 1998
Narrator(s): Irene Jimmy
Interviewer(s): Kristen Griffin, Robi Craig
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
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1) Her personal background, and why the Park is important to her

2) Her childhood memories of a potlatch held in the Park, and collecting resources from the Park

3) Learning basket weaving, and the steps involved in basket weaving

4) Preparing and collecting materials for basket making

5) The dedication of the Park's Visitor Center in the 1960s

6) Her involvement with the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center

7) The carving and raising of the Indian River History Pole

8) Reestablishment of Tlingit cultural protocols, and resource use in the Park

9) The Kayaaini Group's effort to document and protect plant use knowledge

10) Relearning her own culture, especially plant use and beadwork

11) The revival of Raven's Tail Weaving

12) Explains the geometric designs of Raven's Tail Weaving

13) Learning Raven's Tail Weaving, and how it differs from Chilkat Weaving

14) Learning and doing Chilkat Weaving

15) Weaving as an art form

16) Teaching and sharing weaving practices and techniques

17) Battle memorials held at the Park

18) Battle memorials at the Park, and her personal connections to the Park

19) The importance and beauty of Tlingit art, and the Park's role in making it more accessible to the public

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Kiks.ádi/ Sitka National Historical Park/ Park -- importance of/ history/ Park -- connection to|

Section 2: Sitka/ Park -- use of/ Jimmy, Irene -- mother/ potlatch/ Park -- importance of/ Park -- ties to/ spruce roots -- collecting/ weaving -- basket/ berries -- picking|

Section 3: Jimmy, Irene -- mother/ weaving -- basket/ weaving -- learning/ Churchill, Selene/ Churchill, Delores/ artists/ art -- carrying on/ spruce roots -- collecting/ spruce roots -- preparation/ weaving -- annual cycle|

Section 4: basketry -- raw materials/ basket -- hemlock/ environment -- use of/ spruce root/ Russians/ trees -- cutting/ raw materials -- use of/ cedar bark|

Section 5: Jimmy, Irene -- brother/ Kiks.ádi/ Visitor Center -- dedication/ Jimmy. Irene -- mother/ politics/ Clan -- Kiks.ádi/ Visitor Center -- meaning of|

Section 6: Cultural Center/ Park Service/ work -- retirement/ Littlefield, Esther/ Kiks.ádi/ history -- learning/ culture -- learning/ art -- lessons from/ Cultural Center Board/ volunteer|

Section 7: totem pole/ Indian River History Pole/ Kiks.ádi/ totem pole -- history pole/ totem pole -- carving/ Sitka/ clans/ community -- coming together/ totem pole -- raising/ elders|

Section 8: behavior -- protocol/ elders/ Park -- use of/ resources -- use of/ Park -- restrictions/ berries -- huckleberries/ berries -- blueberries/ plants -- use of/ plants -- Devil's Club/ berries -- salmonberries|

Section 9: Kayaaini Group/ plants -- use of/ cultural knowledge -- commercialization of/ Sitka Tribe/ resources -- documenting/ collecting -- future/ resources -- protecting|

Section 10: culture -- learning/ knowledge -- lack of/ generations -- differences/ plants -- use of/ Littlefield, Esther/ beadwork/ beading -- learning/ beadwork -- personal use|

Section 11: Raven's Tail Weaving/ Hays, Ellen Hope/ Rofkar, Teri/ Laws, Marie/ weaving -- robe/ Yaw, Mr./ Anchorage/ robe -- story/ Sitka/ resources -- use of/ berries -- salmonberries/ fish -- herring/ basket -- design/ Presbyterian Church|

Section 12: Raven's Tail Weaving/ design -- meaning of/ Sitka/ Sealaska Corporation/ robe -- story|

Section 13: Raven's Tail Weaving -- learning/ Samuel, Cheryl/ Rofkar, Teri/ weaving -- style/ Chilkat Weaving/ weaving -- cedar bark/ cedar bark -- shredded/ design -- meaning of/ Raven's Tail Weaving/ weaving -- technique/ drawstring|

Section 14: Chilkat Weaving/ Sitka/ Lynn Canal/ Haines/ Chilkat Weaving -- learning/ robe -- time to make/ weaving -- cedar bark/ weaving -- wild goat hair|

Section 15: weaving -- time involved/ weaving -- quality/ weaving -- art/ Clamott, Jenny/ robe -- design/ weaving -- differences/ weaving -- design/ Brown, Steve/ weaving -- gender roles|

Section 16: Jimmy, Irene -- daughters/ Chilkat Weaving/ Cultural Center/ Indigenous Weavers Workshop/ weaving -- teaching/ knowledge -- sharing/ conference -- benefits of|

Section 17: Park -- use of/ potlatch/ Kiks.ádi/ battle -- memorial/ Kiksháa/ memorial -- revival of/ songs/ people -- loss of/ artifacts -- loss of/ culture -- loss of/ memorial -- future|

Section 18: Park -- use of/ battle -- memorial/ Kiks.ádi/ Jimmy, Irene -- mother/ Park -- importance of|

Section 19: Cultural Center/ art -- importance of/ art -- ownership/ ancestors/ art -- pride in/ art -- display of/ artist demonstrations|