The Chief’s necklace has long been used in Athabascan culture to symbolize leadership. You often see the large, dentallium shell necklaces draped across the necks of prominent native leaders and chiefs during large meetings such as the Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention and Tanana Chiefs Conference’s Annual Convention.
However, in recent years, the necklaces seem to be showing up everywhere. You see them being presented to politicians, public service officers, and others who are not part of the native community. You see them being worn by those not in leadership positions. You see them being worn in grocery stores.
All of these situations bring up the question- are people forgetting the significance of these necklaces? But also, what are the rules of Chief’s necklaces? Who is allowed to wear them? Who is allowed to gift them? When should they be worn? Where should they be worn? What is their significance?