Northwest Coast Indians

The phrase Northwest Coast Indians is used to reference the Native American tribes that were originally found to be living in the areas that would eventually become Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. There were a large number of tribes amongst the Northwest Coast Indians, including the Spokane, the Salish, the Nootka, the Haida, the Bella Coola, and the Tsimshian.

The populations of the Northwest Coast Indians rose to more than 100,000 due to the abundance of natural resources in the region, greater than anywhere else in the United States or even all of North America. Because of this they were considered the richest of Native Americans. Like other non-nomadic tribes, Northwest Coast Indians were known to build longhouses, though they used wide planks of cedar to build them. Larger longhouses could host multiple families, however if a single person built one for his or her family then it was burnt down upon their death, in the fear that the spirit of the owner would remain trapped inside of their home.

The Northwest Coast Indians eventually changed from purely oral traditions to using the totem pole to pass down their stories and ways. They did not invent the idea of the totem pole; however upon seeing them through trade they liked them so much it became an important symbol of their culture. The Northwest Coast Indians had no written language so the imagery of the totem pole, and the translation of those images into stories, were the primary way of retelling their history over many years. Even today the totem pole is a major symbol of Native American tradition.

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