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Anthrpology Museum
Northwest Coast

The Northwest Coast of North America is home to Native American tribes and cultural subdivisions that make up the North Pacific Coast cultural area. The northern province of this region includes mainland Alaska and many of its coastal islands, supporting the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes. The Wakashan province, which covers western British Columbia and its coastal islands, is the homeland of the Nootka, Kwakiutl, and the Bella Coola. South of that is the Coastal Salish Province, where the Chehalis and Cowichan bands reside. The southernmost region within the cultural area is the Northwest California Province, which is home to the Yurok, Karok, and the Hupa. These Native American cultures are both similar and different in appearance, language, and cultural patterns, yet together they form the societies of the Northwest Coast.

Traditionally, these Native Americans were hunter-gatherers that used the flora and fauna not only for utilitarian purposes, but for artistic and spiritual ones as well. Today, northwest coast Native Americans are renowned for their extensive woodworking. Wood is still used for constructing houses and canoes as well as for making utilitarian objects and in weaving.

Animal depictions are used extensively as symbols of family ancestry and status and can be seen on carvings, reliefs and paintings. Animals, geometric designs, and other symbols are also incorporated in the motif of objects such as masks, drums, rattles, baskets, and totem poles. Masks and musical instruments continue to be used in religious ceremonies and are symbols of lineage and prestige. Thus, the artwork of the northwest coast Native Americans is linked with the social organization, status, and ceremonial patterns of the different cultural groups.

Go to Northwest Coast Object Gallery