The first people to call the Chilkat Valley home were Tlingit Indians. Originally called "Dei-Shu" or "End of the Trail," Haines is home of the Chilkat Indians whose mother village is Klukwan, located 22 miles north of Haines. Klukwan is recognized as the earliest of the Chilkat villages and contains many reminders of its rich past. Now the Haines Highway into Canada, and previously the Dalton trail used by gold-seekers, the Tlingit trade route to the interior was dubbed the "grease trail' because the most important item carried was oil extracted from the eulachon fish.

Due to the bountiful resources of the area, Tlingits could spend less time on survival and more on developing other skills. Tlingits were the first settlers in the Chilkat Valley, and their traditions still flourish today.