Hall of Northwest Coast Indians
The Hall of Northwest Coast Indians highlights the traditional cultures of the native peoples of North America’s northwest shores from Washington State to southern Alaska, including the Kwakiutl (known today as Kwakwaka’wakw), Haida, Tlingit, and others.
The hall, which is the Museum’s oldest, opened in 1900 to showcase the collections and research of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, led from 1897 to 1902 by Museum curator and prominent anthropologist Franz Boas, who is often called the father of American anthropology. Exhibits include examples of extraordinary woodcarving, a longstanding artistic tradition on the Northwest Coast, represented by the striking totem poles that line the hall as well as by smaller artifacts that range from the ceremonial masks of the Kwakwaka’wakw to the decorative pipes of the Tlingit.
The daily life of various tribes is presented through artifacts that include household utensils such as carved spoons and boxes, hunting and fishing tools, and cedar-bark garments common to the Northwest Coast. Models include illustrations of a late-19th-century Kwakwaka’wakw village and several types of salmon traps.
The Tlingit Indians are a prominent Native American group who still live in southeast Alaska. The armor of the 19th-century Tlingit is notable for its expert construction and expressive artistry.
This hall opened in 1899 under renowned anthropologist Franz Boas, who led the Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897–1902). One of Franz Boas’s most valued field collaborators was ethnologist George Hunt, son of a British trader and a Tlingit noblewoman. This ivory killer whale charm is Tlingit.
This striking wooden rattle, consisting of many small whales, was collected by Fillip Jacobsen, a Norwegian journalist, on the west coast of Vancouver Island in 1897, the first year of the Museum’s Jesup North Pacific Expedition.
The Kwakiutl are one of some 20 diverse communities known collectively as the Kwakwaka’wakw, united by a common language. In Kwakwaka’wakw mythology, animal imagery may indicate a close family association, even common ancestry, which confers supernatural powers and special privileges.