Tlingit clan leader: Everything has a spirit

David Katzeek-1

David Katzeek-2

David Katzeek is a Shangukeidí Clan leader. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

One of the speakers for Forum@360: Living the Language, David Katzeek was the first president of the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, now known as the Sealaska Heritage Institute. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)


A Shangukeidí Clan Leader says the essence of Tlingit spirituality is this: Everything has a spirit.

David Katzeek spoke Tuesday in the final installment of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Native American History Month Lecture Series.

“We have words for it,” Katzeek said, speaking the phrase first in Tlingit, then English. “I have the spirit within me.”

In the Tlingit tradition, Katzeek said the words he spoke came not from him, but from his teachers and ancestors.

“Because the spirit of humbleness is acknowledging those who taught you,” he said. “Those who loved you enough to sit with you, and share with you beautiful jewels that you can experience, that you can have, that you can enjoy, that you can use, that you can apply.”

Katzeek was the first president of the Sealaska Heritage Foundation (now the Sealaska Heritage Institute), serving in that job from 1982-1992. He’s a Chilkat Eagle of the Shangukeidí Clan from the Thunderbird House.