Metlakatla is an official Indian reservation located about twenty six kilometers south of Ketchikan. The Native American’s rich cultural and artistic traditions, which were dramatically disturbed by European conquers in North America, are thankfully still maintained in this small city of around fourteen hundred inhabitants. The mother tongue of the Tsimshian spoken fluently by more than eighty people fifty years ago has currently only five fluent speakers, which is sad, to say the least. Recordings of the language are being made as well as great efforts to preserve it by teaching the tongue in schools.
The highlight of this visit, other than the tall-standing storytelling totems, was the longhouse of the city. On the outside, it is decorated with a mural that represents the eagle, the raven the wolf and the killer whale, which are the four clan groups of Native Alaskan tribes. Inside of the house, we witnessed traditional Tsimshian singing and dancing which we had the opportunity to join for a short moment, during a song that invited everybody.
written by Luca