What Are Some Facts About the Kwakiutl Native American Tribe?


Quick Answer

The Kwakiutl aboriginal tribe, located on Vancouver Island and the neighboring mainland in Canada, were a hunting and gathering tribe at the time of contact with Europeans. Most Kwakiutl continue to live in the Vancouver Island area. The Kwakiutl relied primarily on abundant sea life for sustenance, including salmon, herring, halibut, shellfish and seals. The Kwakiutl held most property within descent groups of related people, and the eldest child, male or female, generally inherited personal property.

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Full Answer

Kwakiutl families generally formed along patrilineal kinship lines and divided work between men and women. Women gathered shellfish and plants and handled all food storage and cooking. Women also made clothing and baskets. Men hunted and fished, and made their own traps. Men also handled all woodworking, such as canoe and house construction.

During the pre-contact era, the Kwakiutl both traded and fought with neighboring tribes, including taking slaves. During the late 18th century, Europeans started to trade with Vancouver Island tribes for furs, which increased significantly after the establishment of Fort Rupert. During the 19th century, many Kwakiutl worked in the growing timber, canning and fishing industries. The tribe gradually settled into permanent settlements, abandoning the pattern of moving from winter settlements to hunting and gathering grounds each summer.

The Canadian government eventually organized the Kwakiutl into reserves in the late 19th century. The Kwakiutl never signed a proper treaty with the Canadian government and continues to push for restitution, as of 2015.

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