CANOE PRIDE OF THE NORTHWEST COAST SEAFARERS
The first founders of the Pacific Northwest coast fished and gathered here forat least nine to twelve thousand years.
Archaeological remains offer convincing testimony for the early development of their dugout watercraft.
In these rugged coastal waters, indigenous seafarers hunted sea mammals, including the porpoise, and occupied the isolated Queen Charlotte Islands 9,000 years ago.
Canoe-borne, they lived on nutritious resources from the sea, inland waters and rivers. The hardy dugouts made their marine lifestyles possible, indeed highly successful.
Their carrying-capacity allowed for seasonal migration from protected winter settlements to summer salmon fishing camps.
Salmon blessed the coastal rivers and over time the Natives developed great skill in catching and preserving the fish.
Though hunger lurked behind a poor fish run, the usual bountiful catch gave them a ready and reliable food source.
TheNorthwestcoast became the second most densely populated area in North America.
The Smithsonian Handbook estimates the pre-contact population for the whole Northwest Coast culture, extending from Yakutat Bay in Alaska toward the present California-Oregon border, at 200,000.
It is reasonable to estimate further that there was one canoe for each ten per sons, so approximately 20,000 canoes plied the waves when the first European explorers arrived.
Canoes gave the mariners a freedom to travel in the otherwise mountainous and isolated areas with the ebb and flood of local currents.
Indigenous people appreciate the gift of the canoe and the cedar from which it is hewn.
Cedar is the sacred tree, the great Life Giver which provides its roots, wood, branches, bark and leaves forthe benefit of the people.
They understand that the spirit of the cedar tree lives in the canoe Painting and they respect that spirit.
Whole villages in large ceremonial craft voyaged to social gatherings, dances, and generous potlatch feasts.
This extensive water travel created a lasting social fabric of marriages and related families which continues today.
In the fall , the vessels were loaded to the gunwales with tons of dried and smoked salmon,
halibut, cod, smelt, herring, seal and eulachon oil, shellfish, seaweed, berries and roots.
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