The Chilkat Naaxein you see here was woven by Anisalaga, a Master Chilkat Weaver from whom I descend.
Anis'laga / Anisalaga / Ansnaq / Anain / A'naeesla'ga / Mary Ebbetts Hunt held many names. She belonged to the Raven/Yéil phratry of the Gigalgam Kyinanuk Tlingit of Tongass / Larhtorh/Larhsail at Cape Fox. Anisalaga is the blood that binds all the Hunts on the West Coast of British Columbia. Her given Kwak'wala name was Musgemxàala.
Her sister belonged to the Wolf/Gooch moiety. They were both descendants of Chief Keishíshk' Shakes IV (her father), whose wife was S’eitlin, a Deisheetaan, a clan of the Raven moiety whose principal crest is the Beaver/S'igeidí (Gaanax.ádi) from Aan goon (Angoon) and the Head-Chief of Wrangell (her grandfather). Aanseet, her mother, drowned on the Nass and she erected two memorial poles, one in Alaska (that was taken to Seattle) and one in Tsaxis/T'sakis, to honour her.
At the time of her birth in 1823, life was very different in Tongass, Alaska. Ansnaq was a skilled weaver from a long line of Chilkat weaving Masters — some originally Tsimshian of Wrangel now family through marriage. When she was fourteen, she was put in seclusion according to Tlingit tradition. A painter was engaged to create a Naaxein pattern board behind where she worked. A female elder described the figures as they were being painted.
Without looking, Anisalaga would reproduce them into her own Naaxein work. This might be a Raven/Yéil, paired on each side, the Killer Whale/Dakl'aweidi/Kéet underneath and a Grizzly-Bear/Xóots in the centre with faces of other bears to illustrate the Bear Mother story or include other traditional designs — but always with a central figure showcased for when the robe was danced.
She was taught to prepare all of the materials for weaving — gathering cedar bark, gathering and dyeing mountain goat wool with bark, lignite, wolf moss Evernia vulpina and copper.
Over the years, she grew to become a very skilled weaver and Master of the Chilkat tradition — an art the evokes the smell of smoke, the beating of the drum, the shared singsong voices of the Winter dances. She guarded her Chilkat learnings closely but shared them with family. She worked in yellow, turquoise, black and white — including an abstract design in the bottom corner that is her kwéiy/signature.
Photo: The photo was taken by Agnes Hunt Cranmer. She was the first of our family to have a camera & so became the designated photographer.