Kwakiutl Indian Life Essay

2440 words - 10 pages

For the Kwakiutl People of the northern part of Vancouver Island, Canada, and the adjacent mainland, recorded history starts approximately in the year of 1792 when Capitan George Vancouver first made contact. As with many first encounters with Europeans, disease developed and drastically reduced the population of the Kwakiutl by an estimated 75% from the time of 1830 to 1880. In 1990, the Kwakiutl was around 1500 and pre-contact estimates are in the range of ten times that (Native Languages of the Americas website 1998). No other accounts had been made on the Kwakiutl for almost the next century and knowledge in that time must be gathered from the Hudson's Bay Company and the reports of the Canadian government and British Colombia even though in 1849 a trading post was established in their territory (Codere 1950). On Vancouver island, Fort Rupert was built and four Kwakiutl groups moved their winter towns there, “establishing the largest largest of the Kwakiutl settlements and becoming the center of Kwakiutl culture.” (Native Languages of the Americas website 1998) Beginning around the 1880's, Franz Boas, George Dawson and other notable early anthropologists began an effort to collect and catalog ethnographic field work on the tribe because they “feared that Indians were “vanishing” as a consequence of the colonial legacy of genocide, Christian evangelization, and legislation that sought to displace indigenous traditions and assimilate native peoples into settler society.” (Zovar 2010) Because of this “salvage anthropology,” after that period, they are well documented and many artistic examples are now in museums.
The environment that the Kwakiutl lived in is a temperate rain forest biome and is regulated by the Japan current, and remains relatively mild and wet. With a wet season from October to April and a dryer season continuing the rest of the year the area is known for its dense vegetation (Codere 1950). Topographic features include many intervening islands, rivers, streams fjords and can be very rugged further inland with high sloped mountains. The flora includes thick forests of giant ceder trees, hemlock, and fir with a dense undergrowth of small shrubs and plants like vine maple, berrycane, and ferns. The fauna includes many animals that are important to the their subsistence like, deer, elk, mountain goats, and most importantly many species of fish in the rivers, streams, and nearby coastline such as the salmon.
Food was very plentiful for the Kwakiutl but still relied heavily on fishing. They would often fish for salmon, herring, eulachon, and halibut but would also hunt larger aquatic mammals such as seal, porpoises, sea lions, sea otters and where also know to hunt larger whales. Also on their diet was shellfish such as crabs, clams, and mussels. Foraging for wild plants was also common. Most of these resources are seasonal and so they had to preserve them for later consumption during the winter months. Their...

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