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The Kwakiutl Indians - Northwest • The people of the Pacific Northwest lived in a mild, rainy area with thick forests. People who lived in the Pacific Northwest lived in cedar plank longhouses. Boards were cut from cedar trees to build the large houses. Many families of the same clan lived in each house. There were no windows, one door, and a hole in the roof to let the smoke from fires out. Beautiful clan symbols were sometimes painted on the outside. Huge totem poles telling the story of the clan were placed in front. Library of Congress Photo, University This picture is of a Haida village built on the coast with large ocean going canoes on the beach in front of the houses. This is a floor plan of the inside of a plank house. Mats woven from cedar bark were hung to make walls for the bedrooms. The fire for heat, cooking and light were in the middle of the house, and all the families used it. The leaders family had the largest area in the house. Just like all other native people, the people of the Pacific Northwest dressed in materials found in the region where they lived. In hot weather, men wore breechcloths made of animal skins or woven grass or reeds. When it got cold and rainy in the winter they added animal skin or woven cedar shirts and leggings. Women wore skirts and capes of woven cedar strips. In the winter, clothing was made of animal skins. Even in winter, people often went barefoot. Library of Congress Photos, University of Washington Libraries This is what traditional cedar clothing of the northwest was like. This man is wearing ceremonial dress for a Potlatch. Men designed the pattern for the ceremonial blankets and painted them on boards. Women then wove the blankets on a loom. The threads were made of cedar bark wrapped in mountain goat hair. It took many months to weave a blanket. The threads were put in pouches to protect them when they were not being woven. NORTHWEST FOOD The Northwest Indians were surrounded by an environment that allowed them to eat several types of food. They received an endless supply of fish from the ocean and animals and fruit from the forests. They were hunters and gatherers. The tribes that lived right on the coast, ate mainly food from the sea. They ate salmon, seals, sea otters, whales, and other types of shellfish from the water. In the fall, during the "salmon season," the people could catch enough fish to feed their families for the whole year. Fishermen made fences of tree saplings to bring the fish toward waiting nets as the salmon swam upstream. The Indians pulled the big salmon from the water by the thousands. Once winter was over, then came the first foods and the "First Foods Ceremony". In the Indian culture no one is to go fishing or berry picking until the first food ceremony was held. This ceremony thanked the Creator for the bountiful harvest. Once all of the food was blessed, everyone in the tribe could start hunting and gathering food for the spring months.
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