Coast Salish

Coast Salish

"Coast SAY-lish"

Coast Salish territory has many distinct groups, each with their own name. Ancestral Coast Salish lands surround Puget Sound, and extend north to the Gulf of Georgia, encompassing southeastern Vancouver Island and southern mainland British Columbia.

Population: Approximately 50,000  Language: More than a dozen related languages and dialects in the Salishan language family

 

IN COAST SALISH TERRITORY—SEATTLE AREA


 

 

IN COAST SALISH TERRITORY—VANCOUVER


 

  

 

FROM THE COLLECTIONS: Coast Salish Twana basket

Basket

A woman living near Washington State’s Skokomish River wove this basket with a popular design: wolves on the rim and salmon gills on the rest. The bright carrying strap is odd for this soft style basket, which wasn’t made for heavy loads. The strap likely was added later for effect—perhaps to make it more attractive to a potential buyer.

This basket is from Coast Salish territory in Washington State.

AMNH 16.1/1966, acquired 1923


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This Salish woman carries a stiff basket while digging roots in 1898 near Kamloops, B.C. She uses the strap, called a tumpline, on her head to support the basket.

Image credit: AMNH Library 42957


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Weavers in Alaska sell baskets to tourists around 1900. At this time, tourism was already an important source of income for Northwest Coast artists.

Image credit: Oregon Historical Society


 

   

 

MEANINGS OF MOUNTAINS

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Sacred Place

Mount Baker, Washington

The Lummi, Nooksack and other Coast Salish people consider Mount Baker to be sacred. Beyond its natural beauty and ecology, they value it for skalalitude—a sacred state of mind engendered here. 

Image credit: R. Bishop/AGE Fotostock


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Reclaiming a Name

PKOLS (Mount Douglas), Victoria, Vancouver Island, B.C.

On the border of the traditional territories of two Coast Salish groups, the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) and Lekwungen (Songhees), Mount Douglas has long been an important meeting place and a site of an historic treaty signing. Chiefs of the two groups and more than 700 supporters marched on the mountain in 2013 to reclaim its original name, PKOLS.

Image credit: B. Dean


 

FROM THE COLLECTIONS: Cowichan spindle whorl

Spindle whorl

Quw’utsun’ (Cowichan) women on Vancouver Island attached this disk to a spindle—a wooden rod—to spin fibers into yarn. Spindle whorls add weight and tension to improve the yarn’s twist. Traditionally, Quw’utsun’ women spun mountain goat hair to make blankets. By the 1850s, English and Scottish people introduced domestic sheep to the area. Sheep wool spinning—and sweater knitting—then became new Quw’utsun’ traditions.

This spindle whorl is from Coast Salish territory on Vancouver Island off the coast of mainland British Columbia, Canada.

AMNH 16.1/1865, acquired 1929


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C’elicia, a Musqueam (Coast Salish) weaver, spins with a huge spindle and whorl about the size of this one in 1915.

Image credit: Royal BC Museum and Archives PN 83


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This giant carved cedar spindle whorl is a work by Musqueam (Coast Salish) master artist Susan Point (E’ixwe’tiye), installed at the Vancouver International Airport.

Image credit: Vancouver Airport Authority/Larry Goldstein


 

 

FISHING TRADITIONS


  

 

See more of the Museum's collection of Coast Salish objects. 

 

Image credit for lead photo: T. Neesam/Flickr