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.
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 lived in a very rainy climate with four seasons and many natural resources. The Kwakiul wore bark blankets, fur coats, skirts, breechcloths, and on special occasions, they wore moccasins. Many Kwakiutls lived in longhouses also known as plank houses.
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.
What was Kwakiutl transportation like in the days before cars? Yes–the Kwakiutl Indian tribe made large dugout canoes by hollowing out cedar logs. The Kwakiutl tribe used these canoes to travel up and down the sea coast for trading, fishing and hunting, and warfare.
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.
The beings that make up Kwakiutl mythology are remarkably diverse. Many contemporary Kwakiutl identify themselves as Christians but incorporate traditional mythology into their faith, freely blending elements of Christian and indigenous religion.
In general, the 1850s and 1860s were terrible years for the Kwakiutl, marked as they were by the destruction of several villages by the British Navy and Bella Coola raiders as well as smallpox epidemics.
Much of their food came from the forests and rivers. Trees were a major resource for the Kwakiutl. The Kwakiutl hunted in both the rivers and the forests. They ate beaver, deer, rabbit, and fish.
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 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.
The Kwakiutl lived in coastal villages lying close to the shoreline. Each of their rectangular house had a totem pole on the front, a heavy timber frame and were made of cedar planks, and roofs were made of wood bark. The typical Kwakiutl house was up to 100 feet long and housed up to 50 families!
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.
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).
Kwakiutl artists are known for their fine Native American basket and woodcarving arts, including wooden mask and totem pole carvings.