Coast Salish Culture Term Paper
Excerpt from Term Paper :
Ceremonies and Celebrations
The Coast Salish people are people from Nations and Tribes whose traditional roots are found along the west coast of British Columbia and Washington State. Actually, the Coast Salish region expands from the northern Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland regions to western part of the Washington State. Most of the Coast Salish First Nations Groups are found in British Columbia and Washington State ("Coast Salish Fast Facts," p.1). The Coast Salish people seemingly have some similarities with other cultures in the Pacific Northwest Coast. An analysis of their traditions and customs and ceremonies and celebrations demonstrates that they are different from the other cultures, which make them distinct people. The process of proving this thesis will entail examining a brief history of Coast Salish people and thorough evaluation of their traditions and customs as well as ceremonies and celebrations.
The Coast Salish People of British Columbia
As previously mentioned, Coast Salish is a term that refers to several distinct languages from one branch of the huge Salishan language family. The Coast Salish people are a group of linguistically and ethnically related Indigenous people from the Pacific Northwest Coast who currently live in British Columbia and Washington State. This people group is made of several tribes with varying distinct cultures and languages ("Coast Salish Fast Facts," p.1). The cultures of Coast Salish people vary significantly from those of their northern neighbors to an extent that they are one of the few indigenous cultures along the coast of British Columbia. Based on recent statistics, it is estimated that there are more than 56,000 Coast Salish people in British Columbia and more than 28,000 in Washington State.
Notably, the Coast Salish people and tribe comprise three geographically divided areas i.e. The Central Coast, Northern Coast, and Southern Coast. Even though there is no one language that is known as Coast Salish, these people are a cultural and ethnographic designation. According to archaeological evidence, Coast Salish people have inhabited parts of the coastal region of British Columbia and Washington State since 9000 B.C.E. The Coast Salish people are currently attempting to regain their language and culture that was nearly lost following the loss of their lands and lifestyles.
The History of Coast Salish People
The Coast Salish people are located on the coastline of Northwest United States and British Columbia in Canada. The first encounter of Coast Salish people with European Explorers took place in 1592 with Juan de Fuca. Despite having a complex society, the Coast Salish people settled in permanent homes that were built of timber and grew significantly in the region. The other features of the early settlement of these people included a stable diet of salmon and abundance of seafood, plants, and wildlife. In the initial years of their settlement along the coastline of Northwest United States and Canada, the Coast Salish people spiritual traditions and customs entailed deep relationships with the spirit world. The spirit world included guiding spirits, ancestors, and animal spirits though most of them became Roman Catholics following the arrival of missionaries in the 1800s.
According to ethnographic and archaeological records, Coast Salish communities were characterized by a mixture of socio-economic and religious networks (Lepofsky, Trost & Morin 2007:190). This implies that the social interactions among various groups in Coast Salish communities were based on these networks, though knowledge regarding the social interactions among certain groups in these communities is relatively uneven. There were also smaller networks or spheres of interaction within the wider and complex social and economic relations among Coast Salish communities.
Coast Salish communities divided themselves into local units that were integrated through a regional network that acted as the basis of redistributing people, information, and food across the wider area (Kennedy 2007:3). Marriage relations among these people established economic links and contributed to social and political alliances. This in turn facilitated a person's involvement in activities that extended beyond his/her own village and lessening risk in a randomly varying natural environment. In addition to marriage ties, kinship in these communities developed from practical and complex strategies and act as important factors for the development of networks for social interactions. Moreover, kinship and marriage act as crucial parts of biological, social, and cultural reproduction. Coast Salish people utilized marriage and kinship to promote exchanges and distinguish social groups.
Traditions and Cultures of Coast Salish People
As previously indicated, Coast Salish people are currently regaining their culture and language that was nearly lost following
the loss of their lifestyle and lands.
While Coast Salish people in British Columbia belong to First Nations, their counterparts in Washington State belong to Tribes. This is one of the various factors that make it difficult for these communities to maintain their common culture (Webber & Neumeyer par, 1). However, throughout their existence, these people have had various traditions and cultures that distinguish them from other cultures in British Columbia. Some of the major components of the cultural beliefs and traditions of Coast Salish people include
Maintenance of Natural Resources
One of the major issues among Coast Salish communities that transcend political boundaries is focus on the maintenance of natural resources. These people focus on the preservation and restoration of the Salish Sea natural resources, which is the foundation of their culture. Coast Salish people have an overwhelming desire and commitment to preserve, safeguard, and manage natural resources of the Salish Sea. Actually, the desire to manage natural resources of the Salish Sea resulted in the union between the different Coast Salish people from Washington Tribes and British Columbia's First Nations. These attempts contributed to the formation of the Coast Salish Gathering whose main objective is to engage in co-management of resources of the Salish Sea. The increased focus on maintenance of natural resources by Coast Salish people is based on the belief that the earth is the ultimate source of knowledge and nourishment. This is primarily because the earth acts as a source of food, clothing, shelter, and medicine.
Dependence on Fishing
From the beginning of their existence, Coast Salish people have relied on fishing as the foundation of their culture and survival. The mainstay of these people's diet was fish, particularly the wide range of salmon ("The Coast Salish," p.7). Consequently, these people developed the commonly utilized methods of fishing i.e. The purse seine, the weir, and the reef net. Throughout all generations, the Coast Salish people observe ceremonies and recognize legends associated with salmon and salmon fishing, which offer proof of the holy relationship between their culture and history and salmon. Some of the most common ceremonies related to dependence on fishing include The Tale of the Salmon Woman and The First Salmon Ceremony. The abundance of salmon in Puget Sound each spring and fall forced the Coast Salish people to create indigenous fishing tools and techniques to capitalize on the great gift of salmon ("Coast Salish Peoples," p.7).
The other important aspect of the culture and tradition of the Coast Salish people in British Columbia is religion since the Central Coast, North Coast, and South Coast of Salish shared largely similar religious beliefs, ceremonies, and myths (Suttles & Lane 1990:486). The foundation of the Salish society and communities was the class system of rich families that act as the basis for religious beliefs and practices. Despite differences in forms, Coast Salish people believe in guardian spirits and transformation between human and animal. As an important part of the Northwest Coast Culture, religious customs and beliefs were passed down orally through the use of songs, stories, and dances ("The Northwest Coastal People," par 1). Similar to other people and groups in the Northwest Coast, Coast Salish people believed that they were surrounded by supernatural beings all the time that interfered with the natural world. Moreover, their culture emphasized that there was a link between spirits and all living things. Coast Salish people also have complex and mutable relations of the living and the dead and soul or souls.
The arrival of missionaries in mid 1800s had a significant impact on the religious beliefs, customs, and practices of Coast Salish people. Missionaries introduced Christianity and Catholic faiths that resulted in the neglect of most of the old religious traditions and customs. In essence, most of the existing stories about old religious customs and practices were derived from the memory of elders and few individuals who recorded oral stories. While the Catholic faith has become a major facet of the religious beliefs and practices of Coast Salish people, there are attempts to reconcile Christian beliefs and respect for traditional religious beliefs and practices.
Artwork, which is found in various forms, is another major component of the traditions and cultures of Coast Salish people. The significance of artwork in these traditions and cultures was fueled by the fact that Coast Salish people were experts of painting and carving in a distinctive style that portrayed various things like mythical figures, animals, spirit beings, and human beings. The Coast Salish people's artwork has a very unique…
Sources Used in Documents:
Cite This Term Paper: