Northwest Native Americans - Lifestyle (Way of Living)
The mild climate, fertile land and a large variety of natural resources that were available to the Indian tribes resulted in the adoption of the hunter fisher culture shared by the Northwest Coast Native Americans along the Pacific coast from British Columbia to the top of Northern California. This section on Northwest Coast Native Americans group provides facts and information about their languages, the Geography and Environment. The animals and the Plants, Trees and Crops provided their food, clothing, shelter and decorations. Their Houses, Shelters and Homes depended on the materials available to them and whether the home was permanent or temporary. There are also facts and info about the Religion, Ceremonies and Beliefs of the Northwest Coast Native Americans group. Tribes included those who spoke the Athapaskan language including the Haida and Tlingit and those who spoke the Penutian language including the Chinook and the Coos.
Northwest Native Americans - Animals and Fish
The animals were very important to the Northwest Coast Native Americans. There was a variety of many different animals including mountain goats and sheep, deer, moose, bear and elk. Fish and Sea animals including seals, whales, salmon and shell fish. The uses of the animals were varied and included food, clothing, shelter and decorations. Dogs were the only domesticated animals and they were used to pull dog sleds.
Northwest Native Americans - Houses, Shelters and Homes
The different types of Houses, Shelters and Homes depended on the materials available and whether the home was permanent or temporary. The homes of the Northwest Coast Indians included Plankhouses. Plank Houses were common and were permanent houses built as homes by the fishing tribes of the Northwest Coast, such as the Chinooks. Plank houses are made from long, flat planks of cedar wood lashed to a wooden frame and made good houses for people in cold climates who lived in areas with lots of tall trees.
Picture of a Chinook Plankhouse
Northwest Native Americans - Religion, Ceremonies and Beliefs
The Religion, Ceremonies and Beliefs were based on Totemism and Animism. Animism was a commonly shared doctrine, or belief, of the indigenous people of North America and Canada including the Northwest Coast Native American tribes. Animism is based on the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all natural objects have souls or spirits. In this religion it is believed that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in animals, plants, trees, rocks etc. This belief is also extended to natural phenomena such as thunder storms and rain and geographic features such as mountains, caves or rivers also possess souls or spirits. The famous customs and traditions of these people included the use of Totem Poles and the Potlatch ceremony which often featured masked dancers. Tricksters feature in the legends and mythology of the Northwest peoples as do heroic figures or "transformers" who transform, or change, the world into its present state. There are also many legends about the Clans.
Northwest Native Americans - Potlatch
The along the north-west coast there existed the curious custom known as potlatch. A potlatch is an opulent ceremonial feast held by some Indians of the northwestern coast of North America to celebrate a great occasion such as a marriage or birth. The host of the Potlatch gives gifts to tribesmen and others to display his superior wealth. Personal property is also destroyed in another show of wealth and generosity. Those who gave away or destroyed the most property earned the greatest social prestige. Potlatch is a way for people to share their wealth with the community, to strengthen their leadership claims and to earn the respect of the tribe. In accordance with this custom a man might save for half a lifetime in order to acquire the rank of chief by finally giving away his entire goods and belongings at a grand public feast.
Northwest Native Americans - Totem Poles
Totem poles were important to the the North Coast Native Americans. Family history was visually displayed outside the home of every Native Indian via a Totem Pole. Totem poles were made of logs which were carved with various symbols including animals, plants, birds, and religious spirits.
Northwest Indians - Physical Characteristics
The physical characteristics of Northwest Coast Indians are dark brown eyes, prominent cheek bones, straight black hair, and scantiness of beard. The skin color of Native Indians varies from very light in some tribes such as the Cheyenne, to almost black in others, such as the Caddo and a yellowish color in such as the Flatheads.
Northwest Native Americans - Languages
The languages of the Northwest Coast Native Americans included Siouan, Algonquian, Caddoan, Uto-Aztecan and Athabaskan.
Northwest Native Americans - Geography and Environment
The Northwest area includes the States of Oregon and Washington. The Geography and Environment can be generally described as a region with heavy rainfall, tall dense forests, oceans, mountains and rivers. All the Native Americans lived near the water, either the Pacific Ocean or an inland river or lake, and relied heavily on water for their survival. A combination of the cedar tree forests and salmon filled rivers provided a good living in an area which was rich in natural resources.
Northwest Indians - Other Tribes of the Northwest
The other tribes of the Northwest Indians known to inhabit the area were the Bannock, Calapuya, Cayuse, Chehalis, Chastacosta, Chelamela, Clallam, Clatsop, Kuitsh, Lummi, Modoc, Nooksack, Shasta, Snake, Tillamook and Yamel.