Sarah Jachim
external image village2.jpgKwakiutl_Timeline.png
Location
:
The Kwakiutl first came to North America by crossing the land bridge from Asia, around the early 1700s. They traveled down west coast, and then crossed to what is now Vancouver Island in dugout cedar canoes.
Early contact with Europeans began for some groups in the 1780s with fur traders, and for others, with American, British and Spanish Voyages of exploration in 1792. Through groups on the north end of Vancouver Island there was participation in the early fur trade, but significant economic impact did not begin until the establishment of Fort Rupert in 1849. In the 1870s, an Anglican missionary established a sawmill in Fort Rupert, to employ natives in the developing timber industry. In the later years of the nineteenth century, native participation, as fishermen, cannery workers, and in the rapidly expanding fishing industry, grew. In 1884, the Canadian government established a ban of the potlatch, an important tribal ceremony. It was, for the most part, defied by the Kwakiutl, but there has been a general revival of the ceremony since the 1960s.
external image fig2_e.jpgexternal image vancoverislandarea8color.gif

The first map shows that Vancouver Island is dark green, which according to the key, means that it recieves a lot of precipitation. The second map shows the elevation of that region, with Vancouver Island being highest in the center and less elevated around the coasts.

Government:
Each Kwakiutl community has its own reserve, or reservation. Each Kwakiutl tribe is politically independent and has its own leadership. The fifteen Kwakiutl bands each have their own government, laws, police, and services, just like small countries, however, the Kwakiutls are also Canadian citizens and therefore must obey Canadian law.
The Kwakiutl Councils are usually comprised of six Councilors and a Chief Councilor, which are all elected by the people, and all serve for two years. Elections are usually staggered throughout the year, and usually occur every two years. They collectively decide if any additional laws are needed, and if so, pass them.

Economy:
There are many resources in the Pacific North-West area, including cedar and redwood tree, many lakes and rivers, moose, deer, caribou, birds, small game, beavers, fish, seal, clams, sea otter, an occasional whale, seaweed, berries, roots, and nuts. Since the Kwakiutl are fishing people, Kwakiutl men catch fish and sea mammals from their canoes, external image volcan%20mountain%20cedar%20trees.jpgand occasionally a whale with external image caribou_sc24.jpgwooden harpoons. They hunt land animals while the women gather clams, shellfish, and other eatable vegetation found in the area.
The Kwakiutl participate in early fur trade through direct contact at the north end of Vancouver Island and indirectly through exchanges across the island. With the establishment of Fort Rupert, they began to barter for food staples and goods. Late in the nineteenth century, the Kwakiutl became full participants in a cash economy as commercial fishermen, cannery workers, and loggers. Although no canneries now operate in the Southern Kwakiutl area, commercial fishing remains the principal vocation. Others find employment in logging, the region's small service industries, and with various levels of government.
Society:

Kwakiutl society is assembled into four classes: the nobility, attained through birthright and connection in lineage to ancestors; the aristocracy, achieved through connection to wealth, resources, or spiritual powers (which are all displayed or distributed in the potlatch); the commoners; and the slaves. On the nobility class, the noble is recognized as the tangible link between the social and spiritual domains, birth right alone is not enough to secure rank: only individuals displaying the correct moral behavior throughout their life can maintain ranking status.
The Kwakiutl as a whole make up tribes, and within those tribes they are organized into extended family units or na'mima, which means, of one kind. Each na'mima has positions that carry responsibilities and privileges. Each tribe has around four namima, although some have more, some have less.

The chief has many roles to do. For instance, the chief is leader of trades, wars, governing the clan and decision-making. The chief is also a military leader in a war, and leads the potlatch ceremony.
All Kwakiutl follow their genealogy back to their ancestral roots. A head chief, who could trace his origins to his na'mima's ancestors, would deal out roles to the rest of his family. Every clan has several sub-chiefs, whose roles include organizing to harvest the lands which are part of the property owned by that family.
Kwak'wala is a complicated language with many sounds that don’t exist in English, and literally means "the people who speak Kwak'wala." Kwak'wala is a branch of the Wakashan (Wuh-CASH-shun) linguistic family and it has five dialects. Today, almost all Kwakiutls speak English, and less than 4% speak their native language, but they have created initiatives to revive it through language instruction in primary schools and Kwak'wala literacy programs for children and adults.


Belief Systems:

The Kwakiutl believe in many spirits and mythological beings. They believe that every living thing has a spirit and has to be respected. The also accept that they were Created from the Earth, and that the Earth is something that needs to be protected at all costs. (They are also very opposed to oil drilling and excessive deforestation).


Customs:
"When one's heart is glad, he gives away gifts. Our Creator gave it to us, to be our way of doing things, to be our way of rejoicing, we who are Indian. The potlatch was given to us to be our way of expressing joy" -Agnes Alfred of Alert Bay 1980
external image potlatch.jpgPotlatches have always been a part of Kwakiutl life. The host of a potlatch would invite many people to a 12 day feast, in which he proceeded to hand out wealth and serve more food than was possible to eat. Hosting a potlatch would not leave one bankrupt, but would insure receiving invitation to other potlatches, and in turn receiving wealth back. Potlatches are held in celebration of the appointing of a new chief, the death of an old chief, or as a marriage ceremony. Hosting a potlatch would also boost the host’s reputation, and help them move up, or continue to secure their social class. In a society of intense rivalries, potlatches help sooth agitation and release tensions that might have otherwise led to war.









Science and Technology:
Kwakiutl fishermen use nets, and harpoons and wooden fish traps, while hunters use bows and arrows. In war, Kwakiutl men fought with bows and arrows or spears and war clubs. Some Kwakiutl warriors wore bulky armor made of wooden rods lashed together to protect themselves from enemy archers. (Although current Canadian laws have banned violent wars between Kwakiutl tribes and now call for more diplomatic approaches to conflicts).
The Kwakiutl use baskets for many purposes. Wicker baskets are used to collect and carry shellfish. Cedar-bark baskets are used for food storage. Cedar bark is also used for mats that can be used for many purposes, such as lids to baskets, seating, and bedding.

Art and Architechure:

The Kwakiutls lived in coastal villages of rectangular cedar-plank houses with bark roofs. These houses could be up to 100 feet long, and each one housed several families from the same clan, sometimes 50 people. At the entrance, there was usually a totem pole carved with different animals, such as family external image 14611_0070_1_lg.jpgcrests Today, old-fashioned buildings like these are still made from cedar wood, but they are only used for ceremonial purposes. The Kwakiutl live in modern houses and apartment buildings.
During summer, men wore no clothing at all, except tattoos and jewellery. In the winter, they usually rubbed fat on themselves in order to keep warm. In battle the men wore red cedar armour and helmets, along with breech clouts made from cedar. For ceremonies they wore circles of cedar bark on their ankles and breech clouts. The women wore skirts of softened cedar, and a cedar or wool blanket on top during the winter. Most Kwakiutls wear more modern clothing, but for formal occasions, still wear more elaborate outfits, with tunics, leggings and cloaks painted with tribal designs. Some important and wealthy Kwakiutls wear chilkat blankets, which are woven from cedar bark and mountain goat hair.
In the old times, art was thought to symbolize a common underlying element in which all species shared. Kwakiutl art consists of a diverse range of crafts, including totem poles, masks, textiles, jewellery and a multitude of carved objects. Cedar wood is preferred for sculpting and carving projects as it is readily available in the native Kwakiutl regions. Totem poles are carved with a relative degree of realism, and an emphatic use of paints. Masks make up a large portion of Kwakiutl art, as masks are important in the portrayal of the characters central to Kwakiutl dance ceremonies. Woven textiles include the chilkat blanket, dance aprons, and button cloaks; each patterned with tribal designs. The Kwakiutl use a variety of objects for jewellery, including ivory, bone, abalone shell, copper, silver and more. Adornments are frequently found on the clothes of important persons.


Bibliography:
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