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Peoples of the {Pacific Northwest Coast

Peoples of the {Pacific Northwest Coast



Surveys the cultures of the Pacific Northwest

Surveys the cultures of the Pacific Northwest



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    Peoples of the {Pacific Northwest Coast Peoples of the {Pacific Northwest Coast Presentation Transcript

    • Northwest Coast Indians Kwakiutl, Haida, and their Neighbors
    • Location of the Northwest Coast
      • Native peoples ranged from N. Oregon through British Columbia and Southern Alaska
      • Best Known:
      • Kwakiutl (“Kwagiutl”) of Vancouver Island
      • Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands
      • Tlingit of Southern Alaska
      • Others: Salish, Nootka, Bella Coola, Tsimshian
    • Northwest Coast Natives as Complex Foragers
      • Simple foragers retain a relatively simple society
      • What if, however, you can yield large amounts of food without agriculture?
      • This is what we find in the Northwest Coast
      • There were regular salmon and candlefish runs
      • They could be preserved by smoking (salmon) or rendering (oil)
      • There were other abundant food sources
      • They were complex foragers
    • Complex Foraging: Primary Characteristics
      • Food source dependence is still direct
      • Food sources now are richer
      • Big game in Old and New World Pleistocene
      • Contemporary example: Salmon complex in NW Coast societies
      • Variance still occurs by season and location
      • Carrying capacity is higher
      • Minimum specified in Liebig’s Law is higher
      • But sources can fluctuate by year, season, and location
    • Complex Foraging: Derived Characteristics
      • Sedentary communities
      • Depend on stability and richness of resources
      • Need not rely only on domestication
      • Assemblage of Tools and Artifacts
      • Multiply in number
      • Multiply in type (specialization)
      • Populations increase
      • Societies become more complex
      • This analysis applied to Northwest Coast peoples
    • Subsistence Base of Northwest Coast
      • Salmon, caught in their annual runs upstream, were preserved by smoking
      • Candlefish (olachen), a greasy fish whose oils provide heat, light, and cooking
      • Other fish, such as cod and halibut
      • Sea mammals, such as otter, seals, and (among the Nootka) whales
      • Land mammals, such as deer, elk, bear, and caribou (northern regions)
      • Berries, pine nuts, roots, and greens in season.
    • Salmon: The Staple Source
      • Every fall, salmons run up the major rivers to spawn, then return to the sea
      • Using nets and weirs (fish traps), the fishers catch prodigious amounts of salmon
      • The salmon are sliced in half, put on racks to dry in smokehouses and sheds
      • The salmon will keep during the winter
    • Candlefish (Olachan)
      • Candlefish are very oily fish; it is said that a dried candlefish can burn like a candle when lit
      • Runs began in the early spring and were caught by nets
      • Their oil was rendered and stored in leakproof wooden bins
      • The oil provides heat and light
      • It is also used as a preservative
      • Oil was a valuable trade item
    • Other Food Sources
      • During the spring and summer, other fish were obtained by net
      • The Nootka hunted whales in large seagoing canoes; other northwest coast Indians relied on beached whales
      • Game was hunted inland, exploited for meat but especially for hides
      • Berries, roots, seeds, and nuts were picked in season
    • Winter Activities
      • Some hunting took place during the winter
      • Most activities were confined in the villages
      • This was the period of feasting (assuming substantial yield in the preceding summer)
      • Potlatches (major feasts) marking important events were held at that time
    • Scarcity and Fluctuating Resources
      • Not all rivers supported salmon or olachan runs.
      • Many areas were short of other resources
      • They could vary seasonally
      • Result: not all years were abundant and some groups might help others in time of need
      • This was also the cause of warfare, and competition for resource-rich areas was common
    • Woodcraft
      • The Northwest Coast Indians were expert woodcrafters—carvers and builders
      • The region is densely forested and wood is in plentiful supply
      • Products: seagoing canoes, longhouses, “totem poles” (signifying the lineage and clans), decorated boxes, and many more (upper left)
      • They were also expert in carving on stone, ivory, and bone.
      • The thunderbird was a perennial totemic symbol among the Kwakiutl (lower left)
    • Social Organization: Kwakiutl
      • Social organization varied by location
      • The Kwakiutl lived on east Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland of British Columbis
      • The Kwakiutl were organized by patrilineal groups known as numaym
      • They could be flexible and valuables could be inherited through females or obtain through marriage
      • Thus numaym had bilateral attributes and were often flexible
    • Social Organization: Northern Groups
      • The northern chiefdoms included the:
      • Haida on the Queen Charlotte Islands
      • Tsimshian in northern British Columbia, and
      • Tlingit of Southern Alaska
      • They were organized into matrilineages
      • Descent was traced through the females
      • Their social organization was much more rigid than the Kwakiutl
    • Five Levels of Social Organization
      • Family: nuclear families of father, mother, and children
      • House group: units residing in a common house
      • Lineages: varied by tribe—matrilineal, patrilineal, and sometime bilaterally
      • Villages: basic political units, led by a chief
      • Supravillage “intergroup collectivities”: alliances based on common concerns—warfare, resource control, ceremonial exchange
    • Family Households
      • The family unit is the smallest unit among all Northwest Coast societies
      • Most foraging, production of tools and clothing, and basic activities are carried out through the family
      • They act individually during summer foraging
    • House Groups
      • Communal functions centered around the multifamily house, a large wooden structure or set of wooden structures
      • Many functions were conducted at that level: drying and smoking salmon, maintaining and using fishing equipment, rendering oil, making and maintaining canoes
      • Labor and products contributed to the local chief were mobilized by the house group
    • Productive Activities of House Group
      • Women formed the productive unit in the house group
      • They cared for children, made the clothing, smoked the salmon, rendered the oil, and kept the stores of blankets, clothing, and later money
      • Men’s work: toolmaker, carver of wood posts and so-called totem poles, builder of canoes, and all else involving construction, carving, and ornaments
    • Women and House Group
      • Women’s role in drying salmon, base of both subsistence and luxury wealth, gave them a great deal of power
      • The importance of women contributed to the matrilineal and matrilocal structure of the northern groups
      • It also may have contributed toward the bilateral bias of the Kwakiutl numaym.
      • Women of high class often owned the house and sponsored potlatches in their own right
    • Lineages and Clans
      • The Kwakiutl numaym or numaymna was used as a gloss to refer to the clans and lineages of all societies
      • A single lineage might dominate a village, with all members as co-owners
      • Lineage membership is flexible, and one could join two or more lineages
      • Lineages could also extend across village boundaries
      • Served to facilitate trade and ceremonial relationships between village
      • Also served to mitigate warfare
    • Village and Chiefdoms: Role of the Chief 1
      • Villages regulated the affairs and resources in the village
      • Chiefs retained influence and sometimes control over the resources of the house group
      • Organized a complex economy with his own specialists and large scale capital
      • Organized the construction of dams, weirs, and defensive structures
      • Regulated the use of the salmon fisheries to prevent overuse and depletion of salmon
    • Village and Chiefdoms: Role of the Chief 2
      • Maintains storehouses to support specialists, pay debts, make loans, and other functions
      • Requires the Native version of taxation: a successful fisher or hunter must give one-fifth to one half of his catch to the chief
      • In return, the chief provides for the common needs of the community—like feasts—and to pay his specialists.
      • Finally, he sponsors large, interregional ceremonies, such as the potlatch
    • Village: Big Man or Chief?
      • The book argues that a big man dominated the village polity
      • The authors’ reasoning: the chief relies on group of loyal followers, whose loyalty is not assured.
      • Problem with the analysis: the chief has an established rule of succession
      • It is a system of permanent positions that must be filled.
      • It is a ranked society divided between elite, commoners, and slaves
      • This is not like the big man of New Guinea, which is subject to competition from other big men in the tribe
      • For this reason, we use “Chief” rather than Big Man.
    • Defining the Potlatch
      • Refers to ceremonies in which an important event was celebrated
      • Occasions: the installment of a new chief, the naming ceremonies, the announcement of a new heir
      • Prior to the epidemics, the ceremony was simply to celebrate an important event
      • It brought several tribes together
      • There were several ritual dances in the first part of the ceremony
      • Then the chief would arise and give a speech
      • The gifts were then distributed, the value matching the rank of the recipient
      • The guests then arose and acknowledged the performance of the host chief
    • Rivalry Potlatch: Epidemics
      • What Johnson and Earle describe is the rivalry potlatch
      • Like other indigenous populations, diseases were introduced against which they had no immunity
      • Indications are that the population declined by up to 90% in the nineteenth century
      • For the Kwakiutl, the population declined from 3500 in 1853 to 1345 for 1903
      • In any case, there were far more titles than for people to assume them
      • Some were more valued than others, and those were the object of competition
    • Rival Potlatch: Increased Competitiveness
      • As disease spread, the successors were wiped out
      • As a result, it was not clear who should be the next chief or to inherit the most valued title
      • To prove their worth, each chief competed by giving a large gift—stacks of blankets, copper plates, even slaves—to his rival
      • The rival could not refuse these gifts, but had to return larger amounts as “interest”
      • Either the rival did so, or he would be “crushed,” ceding the contest to the challenger
      • Because of the unrest they caused, Canadian authorities outlawed the potlatch
    • Conclusion
      • It is a myth that the potlatch described in the book always existed, long before the traders
      • Drucker points out that the potlatch was one way to cement intervillage relations
      • It served to expand trade and mimimize warfare
      • It is one example of how a chiefdom could develop on a subsistence system based on fishing and hunting—and not on agriculture