Kwakiutl, self-name Kwakwaka’wakw, North American Indians who traditionally lived in what is now British Columbia, Canada, along the shores of the waterways between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
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. Each building of planks could house 30-40 members of the same clan.
But they did have dolls, toys and games to play. Like many Native Americans, Kwakiutl mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs.
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.
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 name Kwakiutl derives from Kwaguʼł—the name of a single community of Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw located at Fort Rupert. The anthropologist Franz Boas had done most of his anthropological work in this area and popularized the term for both this nation and the collective as a whole.
Kwakiutl artists are known for their fine basketry and woodcarving arts, including wooden masks and totem carvings.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
Definition: The Plank House is a dwelling made from the red cedar trees consisting timber of hand-split planks a log framework over with an interior pit. Plank Houses were used by various tribes along the Pacific Northwest Coast from northern California all the way up to Alaska.
Kwakiutl on the west coast of Vancouver Island, however, are reported to have hunted whale . Inuit are reported to have used a simple harpoon with a head that remained in the whale, a line connected to the head, and floats and anchors made of wood and sealskin or deerskin attached.
The Kwakiutl people’s history in the region reaches far back–these Native Americans have been living in the Pacific Northwest for around 9,000 years.