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Alaska Native cultures are rich and diverse, and their art forms are magnificent representations of their history, skills, tradition, adaptation, and nearly twenty thousand years of continuous life in some of the most remote places on earth. Yet these art forms are largely unseen and unknown outside the state of Alaska, due to distance from the art markets of the world. Therefore the artists have not received the recognition one would expect for work of this quality.
The Tlingit tribes' artwork is also frequently functional. Their artwork often consists of clothing and carvings, including canoes and totem poles, which are still well-recognized today. The tools generally used for carving ares knives, traditionally made of shell, stone or bone, depending on the artist and what its purpose. The materials that are carved were bone of sheep or goat, and most often wood. Many types of wood are found in the southeastern panhandle of Alaska; some major species include cedar (both yellow and red) for totems and canoes, and finally, alder is used in making dishes and utensils for eating since that wood does not impart its taste onto food. Totem poles always tell a story, since the Tlingit culture traditional is an oral culture with minimal written history. Each animal on a totem pole represent family crests or tells a specific story.