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The Native People of Canada

The Peoples of the Northwest Coast

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The Northwest Coast

     From the Oregon coast up to the Alaskian coast, the peoples of the Northwest Coast resided. Groups such as the Haida, Haisla, and Coast Salish all live in the Coast of B.C.

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The Northwest Coast Area

     Although the Coast Salish have some common attributes with the other Northwest Coast natives, many differences in culture and daily lives also arise.  For one example, the Northwest Coast people are not really into complex societies and agriculture, while it is inferred that the Coast Salish people do much agriculture due to the fact that the coast was one of the richest areas for animal and plant life on the entire Northwest Coast. The social organization is very different between the two native groups. The northwest coast people believe that the family status and name determines your rank as an individual and it is mutually impossible to change it. The Coast Salish people on the other hand, believe in the opposite, where it is common to rise as individuals, and even the lowest rank person can become equally important as the highest ranked person. Slavery was not very common in the Coast Salish communities, most likely because of the ability to move up the “social ladder.” To the Northwest Coast people, slaves form a part of the population, and the nobles show how much money they have by giving away or killing all or most of the slaves he owns. This purchasing and killing of the slaves is very common, and as one can see, the slaves are treated very poorly with hatred and disgrace. These slaves have no way of moving up to the next class as that is the family they were born into and the rank they were given to their name. As one can see, the Coast Salish and the Northwest Coast people vary in many ways, but they still get along and often trade with one another.

     "Big houses" were the common homes for the Northwest Coast peopl, made from cedar. Cedar was primarily the only wood availible which is why it was commonly used for housing, canoes, and totem poles. It was built by first creating a sturdy frame and then it was covered with cedar planks. The inside of these houses were quite big, and resembeled the clan by its totem poles.
 

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The inside of a home

     A huge part of the Northwest Coast culture related to the arts. Totem poles do, as the clan and it's history was portraited on it in artwork, design, and symbols. Ritual dancing was another form of art they practised. The dancers dressed up in costumes and beautiful masks that had been carves, and they would dance their clan's dance. Decorated paddles and carved cedar boxes are just more of the many pieces of art the aboriginals create.
 
     Totem poles are very unique, and special to the Northwest Coast peoples. It is the marquee they have.

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A dancer wearing a carved mask and a ritual costume

copyright 2004 Jessica Kalynn