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Quileute Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Quileute tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Quileute website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Quileute pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Quileute Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Quileute"? What does it mean?
Quileute is pronounced "quill-ee-yoot." In the past it was often spelled "Quillayute" instead. It comes from the name of their tribal capital, Kwo'liyot. This place name doesn't have a specific meaning, but it is probably derived from the Quileute word for wolves, kwoli.

Where do the Quileutes live?
The Quileute Indians are original people of the Northwest Coast. They live in Washington state.

How is the Quileute Indian nation organized?
The Quileutes live on a reservation, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. The Quileute Nation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Quileutes are also US citizens and must obey American law. In the past, each Quileute village was led by two village chiefs or headmen, who were always high-ranking clan leaders. Today, the Quileute Indians are governed by a tribal council elected by all the people.

What language do the Quileute Indians speak?
Quileute Indians all speak English today. Some elders also speak their native Quileute language. Quileute is a complicated language with very long words and many sounds that don't exist in English. If you'd like to know a couple of easy Quileute words, hac'h chi'i (pronounced similar to hotch chee-ee) is a friendly greeting. You can also read a Quileute picture dictionary here.

Today Quileute is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. However, some Quileute Indian people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Quileute culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Quileute Nation in Washington. There you can find information about the Quileute tribe in the past and today.

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How do Quileute Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Quileute children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys and games to play. Like many Native Americans, Quileute mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Quileute tribe?
Quileute women gathered plants, herbs and clams and did most of the child care and cooking. Men were hunters and fishermen and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. Only a man could be a Quileute chief, but clan leaders were both men and women.

What were Quileute homes like in the past?
The Quileutes lived in coastal villages of rectangular cedar-plank houses with flat roofs. Usually these houses were large (up to 60 feet long) and each one housed several familes from the same clan. Here are some pictures of a plank house like the ones Quileute Indians used. Today, old-fashioned buildings like these are still made from cedar wood, but they are only used for ceremonial purposes. Quileute people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Quileute clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Quileute men didn't usually wear clothing at all, though some men wore deerskin kilts or a Native loincloth. Women wore skirts and cloaks made of shredded cedar bark. In colder weather, the Quileutes wore tunics, fur cloaks and moccasins on their feet. Later, after European influence, Quileute people began wearing blanket robes. Here is a website on Quileute and other Northwest Indian clothes, and some photos and links about American Indian traditional clothing in general.

The Quileutes didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Instead, both men and women sometimes wore a basket hat made of finely woven spruce root. The designs and patterns of these hats often displayed a person's status and family connections. Whalers' hats were especially elaborate. The Quileutes painted their faces different colors for war, religious ceremonies, and festive occasions, and often used tribal tattoos. Quileute women usually wore their hair in two long braids, while men sometimes coiled their long hair into a bunch behind their head. Unlike some of their Northwest Coast neighbors, Quileute men did not usually wear mustaches.

Today, some Quileute people still have a blanket cloak or basket hat, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths.

What was Quileute transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Quileute Indian tribe made large dugout canoes by hollowing out cedar logs. The Quileute tribe used these canoes to travel up and down the sea coast for trading, fishing and hunting, and warfare. Here is a website with Indian canoe photographs. Today, of course, Quileute people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Quileute food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Quileute Indians were marine hunters and fishermen. Quileute men fished for salmon and trout and hunted seals, sea lions, and even whales from their canoes. They also hunted deer, birds, and small game on land. Quileute women gathered clams and shellfish, berries, and roots. Here is a website with more information about American Indian fishing.

What were Quileute weapons and tools like in the past?
Quileute hunters used harpoons tipped with mussel shells and bows and arrows. Fishermen used hook and line or wooden fish traps. In war, Quileute men fired their bows or fought with spears and wooden clubs. Here are pictures and information about wooden Indian clubs and other traditional weapons. Quileute warriors would wear armor made of hardened elk hide.

What are Quileute arts and crafts like?
Quileute artists are known for their fine basket weaving and sculptures, including wooden mask and totem carvings. Here is an online museum exhibit of Quileute baskets.

What other Native Americans did the Quileute tribe interact with?
The Quileutes traded regularly with the neighboring tribes of the Washington coast, particularly the Makah and Quinault. Usually the relationships between these tribes were friendly, with many Quileute people marrying Makahs or Quinaults. But sometimes the Quileutes and their neighbors fought wars against each other.

Are the Quileute legends from the "Twilight" novels real?
The story about the "Cold Ones" is not. Stephenie Meyer, the author of the "Twilight" books, has stated that she made this fictional vampire legend up herself. There are no vampires in traditional Quileute mythology. However, the story about the Quileute tribe descending from wolves who were transformed into men is a true Quileute legend. Wolves are sacred animals to the Quileute people, and even the name "Quileute" is related to their word for "wolf."

What other kinds of stories do the Quileute Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Quileute legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Quileute Indian culture. Here are some Quileute legends about the Thunderbird. Here's a website where you can read more about Quileute mythology.

What about Quileute religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Quileute ssiniboine life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Quileute ssiniboine people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Quileute religion or this site about Native American religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
There are not too many books for kids specifically about the Quileute tribe. One book you may find helpful is Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula, a good book on Washington Indian tribes that includes a chapter on the Quileute tribe written by a tribal member. Meet Lydia is an illustrated biography of a modern Tlingit girl which makes a great introduction to Northwest Coast Indian life. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American Indian books in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Quileute Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Quileute Tribe

Quileute Indian Tribe
An overview of the Quileute people, their language and history.

Quileute Language Resources
Quileute Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Quileute Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Quileute Native Americans past and present.

Quileute Words
Quileute Indian vocabulary lists.

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