The Kwakiutl are indigenous North American people of British Columbia. Their native language is Kwak’wala, and they are excellent fishers due to their rich history rooted in fishing. These people celebrate special occasions with elaborate ceremonies called potlatches.
The Kwakiutl Indians were fishing people. Kwakiutl men caught fish and sea mammals from their canoes. They also hunted deer, birds, and small game. Kwakiutl women gathered clams and shellfish, seaweed, berries, and roots.
The Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw (IPA: [ˈkʷakʷəkʲəʔwakʷ]), also known as the Kwakiutl (/ˈkwɑːkjʊtəl/; “Kwakʼwala-speaking peoples”) are Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Their current population, according to a 2016 census, is 3,665.
War and hunting rituals The Kwakiutl believed that each living thing, whether plant or animal, had its own spirit. Animals did not mind being caught and eaten because they could return to the spirit world and take on a new body. Hunters showed great respect to the animal spirits.
Their name for themselves means “those who speak Kwakwala.” Although the name Kwakiutl is often applied to all the peoples of that group, it is the name of only one band of Kwakwaka’wakw.
Their climate was bountiful so food was plentiful. The Kwakiutl ate fish (mostly salmon ), bear, caribou, deer, elk, moose, clams, berries, seal, sea lions, whales, and other assorted sea critters. Kwakiutl art was totem poles and copper jewelry.
The Kwakiutl lived in long, narrow houses called long houses or plank houses. Up to 50 people from the same clan would live in one house. Totem poles are ceremonial statues that were carved by many of the tribes in the Pacific Northwest.
These include the Blackfoot, Arapaho, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Lakota, Lipan, Plains Apache (or Kiowa Apache), Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwe, Sarsi, Nakoda (Stoney), and Tonkawa.
Today, there are over five million Native Americans in the United States, 78% of whom live outside reservations: California, Arizona and Oklahoma have the largest populations of Native Americans in the United States. Most Native Americans live in small-town or rural areas.
The Kwakwaka ‘ wakw (pronounced: KWOK-wok-ya-wokw) of British Columbia have built a rich culture that reflects and acknowledges the riches in our natural environment.
Masks are highly valued by the Kwakiutl, serving as potent manifestations of ancestral spirits and supernatural beings and offering these supernatural entities temporary embodiment and communication through dance and other kinds of performance (Greenville 1998: 14).
The Kwakwaka ‘ wakw peoples are traditional inhabitants of the coastal areas of northeastern Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. The name Kwakwaka ‘ wakw means those who speak Kwak’wala, which itself includes five dialects. (See also Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)
Our Kwakiutl language or Kwak’wala is a Wakashan language of the Northwest Coast, traditionally spoken in our territory. Kwak’wala is the term used for the language, and Kwakwaka’wakw for the ethnic group. The Kwakwaka’wakw, or Kwak’wala speakers are the original inhabitants of the Northern Vancouver Island area.
The Kwakiutl made clothing from the bark of trees. They also made rain capes and coats from animal skins. From the abundant forests of cedar and redwood trees, the Kwakiutl built houses called plank houses, or clan houses.
The fish American Indians caught, wild animals they hunted, and crops they grew were examples of natural resources. People who fished, made clothing, and hunted animals were examples of human resources. The canoes, bows, and spears American Indians made were examples of capital resources.