What Kinds of Food Do the Kwakiutl Eat?

The Kwakiutl, an indigenous group of the Pacific Northwest now mostly living in British Columbia, Canada, traditionally gained much of their sustenance from fishing, whaling and gathering. Kwakiutl women also gathered clams and shellfish, seaweed, berries and roots. Deer, birds and small game are also important traditional food sources for Kwakiutl people.

Wild salmon fishing is an important part of traditional Kwakiutl food culture, though the wild fishery has been much depleted by modern commercial fishing, threatening this traditional food source. Declines in population and international regulations on whaling have also decreased the number of whales the Kwakiutl and other Pacific Northwest groups are able to take. Many people have been forced to move away from their ancestral lands and hunting grounds, making the maintenance of cultural continuity more difficult.

Like other indigenous peoples today, most Kwakiutl supplement their traditional diet with store-bought food, though traditional methods remain an important source of both sustenance and cultural continuity. The Kwakiutl and other First Nations tribes in Canada and the United States have been active in asserting their rights to fish in traditional ways and on traditional lands, often resorting to legal challenges and public relations campaigns to keep non-native hunters and fisherman out of their lands.