The indigenous peoples of the Northwest coast drew from the greatly wooded environment for lot of their technology. Woodworking was facilitated by the diversity of quickly worked types of trees, specifically the gigantic arborvitae (Thuja plicata, additionally known together red cedar) and the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). The trunks of this trees might be split into pink or hollowed out into canoes, containers, and also other advantageous objects.

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Haida argillite carving, c. 1890, illustrating a folktale in i beg your pardon the Bear mommy endures a cesarean birth; in the nationwide Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Haye Centre, Smithsonian Institution, brand-new York City.

In the Wakashan province, representative arts was frankly sculptural, impressionistic, and bold. There was a minimal amount of an easy geometric style on such points as whalebone clubs and whaling harpoon barbs. Their coast Salish neighbors used some, however less, representative art, similar if looser in style. Top top Puget Sound over there was small representative art; the summary painted design on the canoe boards to be unlike anything rather in the region. Most traditional Chinook art is represented by just a few angular numbers incised on hill sheephorn bowls. In the southernmost part of the society area, in northwestern California, art generally concentrated on geometric patterns incised ~ above elkhorn objects and also shells. (See also arts, indigenous American.)


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totem poles
Memorial (totem) poles from different tribes stand in Stanley Park, Vancouver.

Weaving was likewise highly developed. The within bark the red cedar to be stripped, and also the lengthy ribbonlike strands were woven into mats and baskets, using a checkerwork technique. The same material could be shredded into carefully divided functional hanks, which were twined with each other to do a slip-on rain cape shaped prefer a truncated cone. The softer inner bark of yellow cedar was made into robes. People of high condition wore robes made of or edged through strips that sea otter fur and also yarn make of the structure of mountain goats. Salish groups near the Georgia Strait wove robes of mountain goat wool and also of wool from a distinct breed of shaggy dog. The Chilkat, a Tlingit group, wove robes and also basketry, applying various twilling approaches to fabric and also basketry alike. Their blankets bore depictions of crests in blue, yellow, black, and also white.


Karok twined basket
Karok twined basket, c. 1890; in the Denver art Museum.
Courtesy the the Denver arts Museum, Colorado

Twined basketry make from lengthy flexible splints split from spruce root illustrated an excellent technical skill. Baskets therefore tightly woven as to be waterproof were made for food preparation in northern and also northwestern California; their materials were boiled through placing hot stones into the soup or potage within the basket. Warehouse containers, receptacles because that valuables big and small, and also rain hats were additionally woven. The shore Salish specialty was coiled baskets.

Dress fads of the area were reasonably simple, and, back ceremonial garments and some hats might be extremely embellished, most clothes was worn for defense from the atmosphere rather 보다 for ostentatious display. Both women and also men customarily wore some mix of necklaces, earrings, sleep rings, bracelets, and also anklets; these were made of assorted materials, largely shells, copper, wood, and also fur. Some people rubbed grease and ochre onto their skin to create a red colour, frequently accented through black; tattooing was likewise practiced. Throughout the an ar women wore skirts or gowns the buckskin, soft leather, or woven wool or plant fibres. Men’s dress varied from tribe to tribe however was in basic quite minimal—most guys wore nothing but ornaments on heat days. Men of the northernmost Tlingit and also the Kitksan of the upper Skeena wore tailored buckskin breechcloths, leggings, and also shirts in cold weather; in other places they wore robes that yellow cedar bark or pelts in cold weather and rain capes in downpours.


Edward S. Curtis—Edward S. Curtis Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (digital. Id. Cph cph 3b00207)

Kinship and family life

While groups in the northern district tended to be matrilineal—passing status, property, and education with the maternal line—those in the various other three districts were generally patrilineal. Marital relationships were commonly arranged by parents, who openly wished to watch their youngsters rise (or at least not fall) in status. Similar to up-marrying slaves, members the the center classes of a group might marry up if castle had differentiated themselves in some way; the youngsters of these marital relationships would inherit the condition of the higher-ranking spouse. If the spouse of lower rank to be not distinguished in part way, the youngsters would accrue the lower status; as this was usually seen as an undesirable outcome, such matches occurred fairly rarely.

An interesting facet of Northwest Coast society was the emphasis on teaching children etiquette, moral standards, and other traditions of social import. Every society has processes whereby children are taught the behaviour appropriate to your future roles, however often such to teach is not an overt or intended process. ~ above the Northwest Coast, however, specifically northward the the Columbia River, kids were instructed formally. This instruction started at an er when kids were tho in their cradles or toddling, and also all elder relatives, an especially grandparents, participated in it. Lessons to be often ceded gently and also humorously through the telling and also retelling of folktales; trickster tales recounting Raven’s exploits were particularly entertaining, together his troubles to be so obviously the an outcome of his dissolute, lazy, gluttonous, and lecherous personality (see raven cycle). Children born come high standing were provided formal instruction throughout childhood and also adolescence. They had to discover not just routine etiquette but additionally the lengthy traditions by which the rank and privileges of their specific group to be validated, including rituals, songs, and formulaic prayers.

Changes in status were generally marked by public ceremonies. Official rituals were considered necessary at every of two or three an essential stages in a person’s lifetime—birth, a girl’s attainment of puberty (there were no boys’ puberty rites in the area), and also death—because at those time the attendees in this events could be specifically vulnerable or so filled v power the they can inadvertently injury others. A newborn child was thought to be in hazard of injury by supernatural beings; the infant’s parents were all at once in danger and potentially dangerous. Mystic creates of vulnerability and also volatility also accrued to girls at puberty, come the close kin the a deceased person, and also to those who prepared and disposed that the dead. Such risks were avoided by isolating the persons involved—either within a boarded-off cubicle in the residence or in a basic structure out in the woods—and by limiting your diet to old dried fish and water. At the conclusion of the isolation period, a formal purification routine was performed. The soot of the limitations varied considerably, not just in different parts that the coast however even in ~ individual houses. Often the pubescent daughter that a chief, because that example, was secluded for many months, whereas her low-ranking home sister could have to observe just a couple of days the confinement.

Over most of the coastline there to be a very great fear of the dead. A body was usually gotten rid of from the house through some makeshift aperture various other than the door and also disposed the as quickly as possible. An exception developed in the north province, where bodies the chiefs were placed in state for number of days when clan dirges to be sung. Handle of the dead varied. In the north province, cremation to be practiced. In the Wakashan and component of the coast Salish areas, huge wooden coffins were suspended indigenous the branches of tall trees or placed in absent shelters. Other shore Salish deposited their dead in canoes collection up top top stakes. In southwestern Oregon and also northwest California, funeral in the ground to be preferred.

Religion and also the performing arts

The religious beliefs of the Northwest coast shared several concepts that detailed the widespread bases for miscellaneous kinds of spiritual activity.

One concept was the salmon were mythological beings who voluntarily suspect piscine form each year in order come sacrifice themselves because that the advantage of humankind. On being caught, this spirit-beings returned to their house beneath the sea, whereby they were reincarnated if your bones or offal were went back to the water. If offended, however, they would certainly refuse to return to the river. Hence, there to be numerous particular prohibitions on acts thought to offend them and a number of observances designed come propitiate them, cook of which was the first-salmon ceremony. This rite differed in detail yet invariably affiliated honouring the very first salmon of the main fishing season by sprinkling them v eagle down, red ochre, or some other sacred substance, welcome them in a official speech, cooking them, and also distributing their flesh, or morsels the it, communion-fashion, to every the members that the neighborhood group and also any guests. The maximal elaboration of this rite occurred in northwestern California in what have actually been called world-renewal ceremonies; these linked first-salmon rituals, first-fruits observances, and also dances in which lineage wealth was displayed. Somewhere else the first-salmon rituals were much less elaborate but still important, except amongst the Tlingit, that did not perform them.

Another religious concept was the salvation of an individual power by seek individual call with a spirit-being, usually through prayer and also a vision. Among Coast Salish every success in life—whether in hunting, woodworking, accumulating wealth, army ventures, or magic—was bestowed by spirit-beings encountered in the vision quest. From this entities every person gained songs, distinct regalia, and dances. Collectively, the dances comprised the significant ceremonials that the Northwest coastline peoples; known as the soul dances, they were performed throughout the winter months.

In the Wakashan and northern provinces, it was believed that remote ancestors who had undertaken vision quests had actually been rewarded through totemic icons or crests. Displaying this hereditary crests and also recounting the traditions of their acquisition formed crucial part that potlatches. In the Wakashan area details ceremonial cycles dubbed for the dramatization that the entirety tale that the superordinary encounter, which in some cases included the spirit-being’s possession of and its eventual exorcism indigenous the seeker; such dramas to be performed by dancing societies.

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Shamanism differed from various other acquisitions of supernatural power just in the nature the the power obtained—that is, power to heal the sick with extraction of an illness objects or recovery of a strayed heart (see soul loss). It to be commonly believed that some shamans, or medicine men and women, had actually the power to cause infirmities and to cure them. Witchcraft was provided to death others or to make them ill and was believed to be carried out through malicious persons that knew secret rituals because that that purpose (see witchcraft: Witchcraft in Africa and also the world).