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Nootka [archive]

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Location: The Nootka lived along the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, and the northwest portion of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

Diet: In the early summer, the Nootka would move down to the coast to fish for halibut, herring, and cod along with hunting sea mammals. Some villages participated in whaling. Shellfish in the shore waters could be gathered with little exertion. In late summer the villages would move to the mouths of rivers and streams to fish for salmon with nets. The Nootka also gathered crab apples, roots, berries, and ferns. A whole years supply could be harvested and dried within a few weeks. The Nootka would move to their principal home sites in the winter when hunting and gathering was slow.

Dress: The men and women of the Nootka wore cedar bark robes during cool time. The only difference between the clothing of men and women was that woman also had an additional bark apron that would extend from the waist to the knees. In the coldest times people of great wealth would wear sea otter and bear furs, while people of low wealth wore robes made from raccoons, wildcats, and other small animals. During warm times the men would only wear ornaments while the women would wear skirts made from cedar bark.

Society: Each Nootka was ranked in society. This was determined by the principle of primogeniture (birthright of the eldest son). In addition, the Nootka would make slaves out of war captives. The social rank was reinforced by ceremony. The potlatch was a ceremony based on two aspects - to validate and update rank and the distribution of gifts. The most important ceremony was the shaman dance. This ceremony would reenact the kidnapping of an ancestor by supernatural beings that gave him supernatural gifts and released him and would end with a potlatch.

Additional Reading

 Nootka Language
 Nootka Tribe
 Pacific Northwest Art
 British Columbia First Nations

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