Northwest Coast

The Northwest Coast, a long and narrow expanse that extends from Southern Alaska to Southern Oregon, is one of six cultural areas that are located within the borders of Canada (Arctic, Sub-Arctic, Plateau, Plains, and Eastern Woodlands).

A culture area represents a region where native peoples share similar traits in terms of material culture but not in linguistic or social elements. Such resemblances are a by-product of inhabiting a similar environment, cultural borrowing and trade with neighboring peoples.

Although culture areas are useful in general analytical and descriptive terms, they ultimately act to conceal internal variation. For example, the Kwakwaka’wakw, prior to European contact, were comprised of roughly thirty independent political factions, each maintaining their own winter town, songs and traditions. There are also three different dialects of Kwak’wala, the Kwakwaka’wakw language, with each being mutually intelligible.