Early Civilization: An Introduction to Anthropology

By Alexander A. Goldenweiser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE TLINGIT AND HAIDA OF NORTHWEST AMERICA

The Indian tribes inhabiting the shores of British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, the Prince of Wales Islands and southern Alaska, have developed a distinctive set of civilizational features. This entire region is classed by American ethnologists as a separate culture area designated as the Northwest Coast. This culture is most clearly represented by the Tlingit and Haida. They share almost all of their cultural traits with their Tsimshian speaking neighbors, while the Kwakiutl, further south, having developed from a common cultural stratum, display a number of individualized traits.

The Tlingit and Haida speaking tribes are hunters and fishermen. While the men are devoted to these pursuits, the women gather a variety of wild berries. The men hunt the land animals as well as the mammals of the sea, such as the whale, killer-whale, and seal, and they catch the fish along the shores of the ocean and in the rivers. The fishing methods employed are many and varied. The bow and arrow are commonly used for striking the fish while they shoot through the water. A great variety of nets, wicker baskets and hedges are employed for catching fish in the streams, and when the salmon go up the rivers in huge shoals, their quantity is so great that they can be caught with baskets.

There is no pottery made in this region nor is there any agriculture, except in the form of garden culture among the Kwakiutl, whose women cultivate patches of clover, without, however, using the seed of the plant for sowing. Barring the dog, domestic animals are unknown. The Haida and the tribes further south are not proficient at basketry,

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