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Ukas, Thomas (1879-1973) | Sealaska Heritage Institute Archives

Name: Ukas, Thomas (1879-1973)

Historical Note:

Thomas Ukas (1879-1973) was born on October 12, 1879 at Wrangell, Alaska, the son of Tlingit Naanyaa.aayí clan artist and totem carver William Ukas (Yeeka.aas) and Kiks.ádi clan woman Susan (Stóok). Thomas Ukas was a Tlingit Indian of the Raven moiety, Kiks.ádi clan, and a Naanyaa.aayí yadí, with Tlingit names Gunaanastí and Aak’wtaatseen. He is often remembered today as a cultural leader and accomplished Tlingit artist known for his totem poles, including the Dogfish pole.

Thomas Ukas lived most of his life in Wrangell. During his life he worked as a freight hauler (up the Stikine River in his youth), merchant, surveyor, boiler and boat repairman, commercial fisherman, a guide for sport hunters, and Native artist. In 1909 he married Josephine ‘Josie’ Lewis (Shaa Tlein) (1879-1977), of the Teeyhittaan clan, and together they had two or more children, including Harry ‘Bud’ Ukas (1915-1993) and Martha Blanch Ukas (1911-1948).

Ukas is often remembered as a totem pole carver, who was involved in the Civilian Conservation Corps work during the late 1930s when Southeast Alaska’s totem parks were created or renovated, and clan houses were restored, such as the Chief Shakes House in Wrangell. Although Ukas carved other totems, in 1960 he was commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard and Geologic Survey to carve a totem pole, and this Thunderbird Totem resides/ed at the U.S. Coast Guard and Geologic Survey offices in Seattle. He is also known to have completed work on a Kiks.ádi raven clan hat that came back into Kiks.ádi clan possession in December 2013.

Ukas passed away at Sitka on April 8, 1973.


Obituary in the Wrangell Sentinel, 13 Apr 1973.

Content provided by Michael Hoyt, December 2013.

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