Gordon Miller Natives of the Northwest Coast
From Juan de Fuca Strait to the Bering Sea, the Northwest Coast is a labyrinth of rocky islands, hidden reefs and deep inlets, backed by the almost unbroken chain of the Coastal Range. Spread out along this rugged coast lived the West Coast peoples; Tlingit in Alaska, Haida in southern Alaska and the Queen Charlotte Islands, Kwagiuth and Tsimshian around Queen Charlotte Sound, the Coast Salish on the Inside Passage, and the Nuu-chah-nulth on Vancouver Island’s west coast.
In this spectacular setting, with abundant food and resources, they flourished for thousands of years. They lived in large communal houses in villages facing the sea, often fronted by the great carved totem poles that recorded their stories and histories. Their lives revolved around seasonal hunting and harvesting, and the winters given to potlatching. Contact with European traders unleashed a great explosion of material wealth, pole-carving, and potlatching, their elaborate ceremonies of feasting, dancing, oratory and gift-giving.
Curiosity about the lives of the indigenous people of British Columbia first prompted my exploration of this subject, but commissions from museums followed, and demand for images by the tourist industry led to the creation of many paintings. The native sites and artifacts are all accurate.