Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
menu

Lkaayaak yeil s'aaxw (Box of Daylight Raven Hat)

Photo: Paul Macapia

Lkaayaak yeil s'aaxw (Box of Daylight Raven Hat)

ca. 1850

This hat depicts Raven in semi-human form, grasping the lid of the box from which he released the sun, moon and stars. This hat, unique in its full sculptural form, references the famous Box of Daylight story of the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska. It was Raven who released the sun, moon and stars from the box being held by Naas Shakee Yeil, Raven at the Head of the Nass.

Carved wood hats are among the most valued and significant objects of the Tlingit, which display a variety of crest emblems used by a particular clan that may include animals, geographic features or natural phenomena. They are brought out or shown only on ceremonial occasions of great importance. When not in use, hats such as this one are stored safely by a clan caretaker, who is someone recognized by the clan to have the knowledge and qualities necessary for such an important position. Similar hats and headdress frontlets are still brought out on ceremonial occasions, and their history and connection to the clan is recounted and validated. Crests memorialize an event or encounter between a clan ancestor and an animal or a crest symbol. Ownership of specific crests by matrilineal clans lies at the heart of the Tlingit crest art system and is the motivation for the creation of crest display regalia.
Maple, mirror, abalone shell, bird skin, paint, sea lion whiskers, copper, leather, Flicker feathers
11 7/8 x 7 3/4 x 12 1/4 in. (30.2 x 19.7 x 31.1 cm)
Gift of John H. Hauberg
91.1.124
Photo: Paul Macapia
location
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum

Raven then changed his spirit into a bird form again and took the last box… the one they call the box of daylight and he flew out into the nighttime sky

Gene Tagaban recalling the Box of Daylight story, 2006

Other Tlingit Works in SAM's Collection with Raven Imagery

Yéil X'eenh (Raven Screen), ca. 1810, Tlingit, Kadyisdu.axch, 79.98
Yeil sheishoox, Raven Rattle, ca. 1850, Native American, Tlingit, Wrangell, AK, 91.1.57
Yéil kudás' (Raven shirt), ca. 1895, Tlingit, Deisheetaan clan, Angoon, 91.1.81
Naas shagl yell s'aaxw (Raven at the Headwaters of Nass hat), ca. 1810, Tlingit, Gaanax'adi clan, Taku, Kadyisdu.axch', Tlingit, Kiks.adi clan, 91.1.125

Other Tlingit Hats in SAM's Collection

Kágeit S'aaxw, Loon Hat, ca. 1830, Native American, Tlingit, 91.1.114
Eagle war helmet, Ch'aak l'oo shádaa, ca. 1780, Native American, Tlingit, L'eneidi clan, Aanxahitaan, Angoon, 91.1.72
Xoots l'oo shádaa, Bear war helmet, ca. 1850, Native American, Tlingit, 91.1.51

The Celebration Festival in Juneau, Alaska

Celebration is a biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribal members in Juneau, Alaska. The festival attracts thousands of participants and spectators and is organized by the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The event encourages individuals, families, clans and communities to participate in traditional songs and dances, arts and crafts and the revitalization of Native languages. Celebration is a new tradition. The first was held in 1982, and it is not a ceremonial potlatch or memorial party. Adoptions, name giving, memorial services and other events that are a proper part of those traditional gatherings are not part of Celebration and are observed at other times. In 2006, an inaugural biennial event held the day and night before Celebration brought together Northwest Coast Native artists and scholars of the visual and performing arts to become acquainted with one another and their work, share ideas, make presentations, discuss issues and create a network so that artists could expand their connections. The hope for this event is to inspire and support both present and future generations of artists and the Northwest Coast Native art community as a whole.

Map of Tlingit Peoples

Map of Northwest Coast, showing Tlingit peoples
© Seattle Art Museum

At.óow and Crest Art

Guulaangw gyaat'aad (button robe), ca. 1890, John Yeltadzi, Kaigani Haida, yahgu'laanaas Raven clan, 91.1.65
Painted Woven Hat, 1895, Charles Edenshaw, Haida, 83.226

The Box of Daylight Raven hat is unique in its full sculptural form and in the variety of materials used in its construction. As an example of Tlingit crest art, this hat displays the crest of Raven and makes reference to the story of Raven, who released the sun, moon and stars from the box being held by Naas Shakee Yeil, Raven at the Head of the Nass. Ownership of specific crests lies at the heart of the Tlingit crest art system and is the motivation for the creation of crest display regalia. Crest art can take many forms and continues to be created and used today.
Naas shagl yell s'aaxw (Raven at the Headwaters of Nass hat), ca. 1810, Tlingit, Gaanax'adi clan, Taku, Kadyisdu.axch', Tlingit, Kiks.adi clan, 91.1.125

What Materials Were Used to Make This Hat?

Detail of mouth, nostrils and eyes of Raven, inlaid with alalone shell, 91.1.124
Detail of copper overlays on the lips and eyebrows of the bird, 91.1.124
Detail of worn piece of inlaid mirror, 91.1.124
Detail of newer mirror that may have replaced a pervious material, 91.1.124

Media

124
124
Gene Tagaban, Cherokee and Tlingit storyteller, shares the Box of Daylight story

Resources

Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Hero/Antihero, December 21, 2002 - July 20, 2003

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Native Visions: Northwest Coast Art, 18th Century to the Present, October 18, 1998 - January 10, 1999

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Box of Daylight, September 15, 1983 - January 8, 1984

Published ReferencesMiller, Angela L., Berlo, Janet C., Wolf, Bryan J., Roberts, Jennifer L. Roberts; American Encounters: Art History and Cultural Identity, 2008, pp. 233

Brown, Steven C., Native Visions: Evolution in Northwest Coast Art from the Eighteenth Through the Twentieth Century, Seattle Art Museum, 1998, pg. 91

The Spirit Within: Northwest Coast Native Art from the John H. Hauberg Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 1995, pg. 32

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.