Anthropology The Northwest Coast
by
Leslie H. Tepper
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0256

Introduction

The distinctive culture of the Indigenous populations on the Northwest Coast (NWC) and their colonial history—from European contact in the 17th century to contemporary issues of land claims and reconciliation—have helped to frame many of the themes and models of ethnographic theory and practice, particularly in American anthropology. The NWC is often defined as the geographic area stretching from Alaska to California. For the purposes of this bibliography, the study area is limited to what is sometimes called the “North Pacific Coast,” which begins at the southern border of Alaska, continues down the coastline of British Columbia (BC), and ends in northern Washington State. Its rocky coastline is broken up by deep fjords and offshore islands, including Vancouver Island in the south and Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) in the north. Several major river systems provide access to the BC interior through the mountainous Cascade Range. Though local resources vary along the coast, almost all the Indigenous groups followed a similar seasonal cycle of fishing, hunting, and gathering from spring to fall. The winter months were dedicated to the manufacture of material culture, social feasting, and ceremonial gatherings. Large oceangoing canoes and smaller river crafts linked well-established villages into an extensive series of trade routes. Walking trails over the mountains allowed the exchange of seafood and other coastal products for animal skins and goods from interior forests. Warfare brought additional wealth to the victor by means of raiding stored foods and manufactured items. European contact began in the late 18th century with the arrival of Spanish and British explorers. They were followed by English, American, and Russian fur traders. The discovery of gold along the Fraser River in 1858, and later finds in the Cariboo Mountains, brought tens of thousands of American, British, and other immigrants to the area. British sovereignty over the area north of the 49th parallel was quickly reinforced by the Royal Navy and an expanded colonial administration. In 1871 the province of British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation and NWC Indigenous communities came under the control of the federal Indian Act. This act is still in force.

General Overviews

Despite a widespread interest in the NWC as an area of study, and the century-long presence of archaeologists and anthropologists in local Indigenous communities, there are few introductory texts that offer both a broad overview of the area and detailed information on the individual NWC First Nations. Suttles 1990 continues to be an important reference work. Its introductory chapters summarizing NWC history, language families, and ethnology are followed by in-depth articles on the major tribal groups. Drucker 1963 is intended, perhaps, as a popular reader or introductory college text. Drucker has organized the information into traditional ethnology topics, including economy, material culture, religion, and ceremonies. He also highlights the iconic NWC potlatches and totem poles. As an introductory text, Muckle 2014 provides a summary of archaeological, ethnological, and ethnohistorical findings of the Indigenous populations of BC. Several authors have prepared broad overviews of specific themes in NWC anthropology. For example, archaeological excavations place the date of human occupation in the area of at least 10,000 years. Ames and Maschner 1999 uses the gradual changes in sea level and climate to explain the emergence of NWC technology and social organization. A publication of conference proceedings, Mauzé, et al. 2004 brings together a collection of studies in NWC anthropological history—particularly regarding the influence of Franz Boas and Claude Lévi-Strauss—and related case studies of First Nations in different regions of the NWC. Current academic interest in NWC art is reflected in Townsend-Gault, et al. 2013. This compilation of historiography and ethnographic analysis includes chapters on early collectors, the uses of art as a nationalistic statement, Indigenous perspectives, the effects of the art market, and the current situation regarding NWC art in relation to land claims and repatriation.

  • Ames, Kenneth M., and Herbert D. G. Maschner. 1999. Peoples of the Northwest Coast: Their archaeology and prehistory. New York: Thames and Hudson.

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    The authors provide an in-depth survey of NWC prehistory, the emergence of a society dependent on the annual arrival of salmon, and technologies utilizing the cedar tree.

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  • Drucker, Philip. 1963. Indians of the Northwest Coast. Garden City, NY: Natural History Press.

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    Originally published in 1955, this volume is somewhat dated regarding its topics and approach, but otherwise offers a good overview. It has been digitized and is available through Hathi Trust Digital Library.

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  • Mauzé, Marie, Michael Eugene Harkin, and Sergei Kan, eds. 2004. Coming to shore: Northwest Coast ethnology, traditions, and visions. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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    Papers from a conference in 2000 that looked at the influences of Boas and Lévi-Strauss on the study of the NWC and the impact of NWC culture on anthropological theory.

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  • Muckle, Robert James. 2014. The First Nations of British Columbia: An anthropological overview. 3d ed. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    A text designed for first-year college or senior high school courses. It includes definitions and a glossary of terminology currently used in anthropology, land claims, and treaty negotiations. All Indigenous BC groups are included, along with those on the NWC. First edition published in 1998.

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  • Suttles, Wayne, ed. 1990. Northwest Coast. Handbook of North American Indians 7. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

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    Contributors to this volume include major researchers in the field at the time, many of whom established the core concepts that continue to frame the discourse of NWC study.

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  • Townsend-Gault, Charlotte, Jennifer Kramer, and Ḳi-ḳe-in, eds. 2013. Native art of the Northwest Coast: A history of changing ideas. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    Contents focus on general themes of contemporary NWC art history rather than the artistic traditions of individual First Nations.

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Ethnography

Written observations of NWC First Nations began in the last quarter of the 18th century, and were recorded by English and Spanish explorers and, later, by fur traders. Though most of these early writings were based on brief interactions, Jewitt 1987 offers a rare captive narrative of the author’s years among the Nuu-chah-nulth. By the mid-19th century, missionaries, government agents, and amateur ethnographers chronicled their thoughts and conjectures about the people among whom they lived. Missionaries were often the first linguists, translating passages of the Bible, prayer books, and hymns into Indigenous languages. Boas’s arrival established a more systematic recording of NWC languages, traditional knowledge, social organizations, and belief systems, as well as comprehensive museum acquisition. His museum colleagues, such as Harlan Smith, and later his PhD students influenced by his teachings published extensive ethnographies or wrote shorter studies as part of annual reports, monographs, or volumes for the Jesup Expedition Papers. Boas also hired local Indigenous researchers, such as Henry Tate and William Beynon, and men who had married into the Native community, such as George Hunt and James Teit, to gather ethnographic information. Boas himself produced multiple volumes of ethnography, folklore, and linguistics on several First Nation communities, as well as a formative study of Indigenous art. (See also the separate Oxford Bibliographies article “Franz Boas,” and American Philosophical Society 1972, cited in the Bibliographies section.) Many of these early scholars published numerous books and articles, of which only a few examples can be given here. Important classic ethnographies include Barnett 1955 on the Coast Salish and McIlwraith 1992 on the Bella Coola (Nuxalk). Swanton 1975 is about the Haida, particularly regarding ethnology and linguistics, and Sapir 1915 details the author’s work with the Nootka and Tsimshian (see also the separate Oxford Bibliographies article “Edward Sapir”). Barbeau 1957 details the author’s fieldwork among the Tsimshian and Haida. Barbeau also worked with Beynon, who continued to independently research and publish his findings; see Beynon 1941.

  • Barbeau, Marius. 1957. Haida carvers in Argillite. Anthropology Series 38, Museum Bulletin 139. Ottawa, ON: National Museum of Canada.

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    Barbeau earned a degree in anthropology at Oxford in 1911 and returned to Canada to work for Edward Sapir at the National Museum. Much of his published writing on the Northwest Coast focuses on folklore, carvings in argillite, and totem poles.

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  • Barnett, Homer G. 1955. The Coast Salish of British Columbia. Eugene: Univ. of Oregon Press.

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    The fieldwork conducted in 1935 and 1936 resulted in a volume with extensive ethnographic information on the traditional Salish life cycle, seasonal migrations, traditional narratives, and winter feasting. The book also includes detailed maps and useful illustrations.

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  • Beynon, William. 1941. The Tsimshians of Metlakatla, Alaska. American Anthropologist 43.1: 83–88.

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    Beynon (b. 1888–d. 1958) collected ethnographic information on the Tsimshian, Nisga’a, and Gitxsan. His edited notebooks were published in 2000 by UBC Press, titled Potlatch at Gisegulka.

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  • Jewitt, John R. 1987. The adventures and sufferings of John R. Jewitt, captive of Maquinna. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

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    Jewitt (b. 1783–d. 1821) was a blacksmith who sailed on the Boston, a British ship engaged in the fur trade. The ship was attacked while trading in Nootka Sound and only Jewitt and one other sailor survived. He remained in captivity for three years, recording his experiences, and later published his adventures.

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  • McIlwraith, T. F. 1992. The Bella Coola Indians. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.

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    This two-volume set brings together traditional knowledge of the Bella Coola (now called the Nuxalk First Nation), collected by McIlwraith in 1922 and 1923.

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  • Sapir, Edward. 1915. A sketch of the social organization of the Nass River Indians. Anthropology Series 38, Museum Bulletin 139. Ottawa: Canadian Department of Mines.

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    Sapir was the first chief ethnologist for the Geological Survey of Canada (the forerunner of the Canadian Museum of History) from 1910 to 1925.

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  • Swanton, John R. 1975. Contributions to the ethnology of the Haida. Memoirs of the AMNH 8.1; Publications of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition 5.1. New York: AMS Press.

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    Swanton worked with the Haida and Tlingit between 1900 and 1901 and published papers on folklore, linguistics, and ethnology.

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Contemporary Ethnographic Studies

The tradition of writing ethnographic studies about the NWC continues to the present. Hoover 2000 and Anderson 1984 organized and edited volumes on historical and contemporary culture, including material culture studies. Weiss 2018 examines current Haida expectations of their future community. Finally, an increasing number of First Nation communities are researching and publishing their own ethnographies—either independently or in collaboration with non-Native researchers. The Cowichan (Marshall 1999) and the Stó:lō (Carlson and Stó:lō Heritage Trust 1997) are two examples.

  • Anderson, Margaret, ed. 1984. The Tsimshian: Images of the past, views for the present. Vancouver: Univ. of British Columbia Press.

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    Papers in this volume draw from the 19th- and early-20th-century work of Boasian-trained or -influenced ethnologists, including Barbeau, Beynon, and Tate. Contributing authors bring a more modern perspective based both on newer anthropological theory and practice, and on their own fieldwork.

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  • Carlson, Keith, and Stó:lō Heritage Trust, eds. 1997. You are asked to witness: The Stó:lō in Canada’s Pacific Coast history. Chilliwack, BC: Stó:lō Heritage Trust.

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    The volume is intended for a non-Native audience. It is part of an ongoing program to increase public knowledge of Stó:lō perspectives and history and provide information to schools.

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  • Hoover, Alan L., ed. 2000. Nuu-Chah-Nulth voices, histories, objects and journeys. Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum.

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    This edited volume was published in conjunction with the museum exhibition HuupuKwanum Tupaat, Out of the Mist: Treasures of the Nuu-chah-nulth Chiefs.

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  • Marshall, Daniel Patrick. 1999. Those who fell from the sky: A history of the Cowichan peoples. Duncan, BC: Cultural and Education Centre, Cowichan Tribes.

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    A project initiated by the Cowichan community in order to tell their history. The book begins with origin stories and traditional teachings, and discusses the impact of white settlers arriving in the Cowichan Valley. The history continues with the efforts to fight government seizure of land and resources and the ongoing attempts to establish Indigenous rights and title.

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  • Weiss, Joseph. 2018. Shaping the future on Haida Gwaii: Life beyond settler colonialism. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    Weiss’s case study is of a First Nation that has been successful in reviving its culture and language, protecting its forests, and planning its future in partnership with their non-Native neighbors.

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Ethnographic Focus

Ethnographers have been particularly interested in such NWC complexities as social organization, ceremonies and rituals, ornate art forms, and the breadth and depth of traditional knowledge. Some scholars have chosen to focus on only one cultural element, comparing its variations among different NWC First Nations; others trace cultural changes through history. This bibliography highlights these approaches by providing resources in three areas of academic focus: the Potlatch, Traditional Knowledge, and Art.

The Potlatch

A potlatch is a ceremonial feast that marks the end of a period of mourning for the death of important family members and/or the announcement of a new chieftainship. It could also be a time to publicly announce new alliances through marriage, to bestow traditional names, and/or to initiate selected family members into ceremonial societies. The giving of a potlatch requires a multiyear effort by an extended lineage, who gather and prepare the foods and gifts that will be distributed to a large number of guests. It is also an opportunity for important families to not only demonstrate their economic and social power, but also display their wealth of lineage-owned songs, dances, and the inherited names that have come down to them through ancestral encounters with the supernatural. Over the past century, anthropologists have suggested various roles for the potlatch in NWC society. It has been considered as an economic method to redistribute resources, a process of building social cohesion, and a means for social advancement. For example, Drucker and Heizer 1967 suggests that it is a process of nonviolent dispute resolution, while Codere 1950 sees the elaboration of late-19th-century potlatches as a reaction to the impact of European contact. Rosman and Rubel 1971 contributes an analysis by using a comparative methodology. Barnett 1938 offers a summary of anthropological approaches during the early Boasian period. In 1884, responding to pressures from missionaries and Indian Agents, the Canadian federal government outlawed the potlatch. Ceremonies continued in secret, however, often disguised as Christmas celebrations with feasting and gifts. In 1921 an Indian agent raided a potlatch on Village Island, arrested Kwakwaka’wakw chiefs and elders, and confiscated their ceremonial regalia. Sewid-Smith 1979 documents this traumatic event in the author’s community. The potlatch ban was dropped from the Indian Act in 1951, and potlatch ceremonies are now common among most NWC First Nations. Newell and Schreiber 2006 is an example of how the potlatch continues to be an ongoing element of anthropological discussion, and Bracken 1997 illustrates its use as a case study for theoretical analysis in other academic disciplines.

  • Barnett, H. G. 1938. The nature of the potlatch. American Anthropologist 40.3: 349–358.

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    An overview of the writings on the potlatch by early ethnologists.

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  • Bracken, Christopher. 1997. The potlatch papers: A colonial case history. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A postmodern analysis that applies the theories of Derrida and others to the correspondence between the federal government in Ottawa and government and nongovernment agents on the NWC.

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  • Codere, Helen. 1950. Fighting with property: A Study of Kwakiutl potlatching and warfare, 1792–1930. Monographs of the American Ethnological Society 18. New York: American Ethnological Society.

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    Codere reviews the historical record and suggests that the growth of potlatching in the post-contact period was a result of the disruption of the former social order and significant population loss.

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  • Drucker, Philip, and Robert Fleming Heizer. 1967. To make my name good: A re-examination of the southern Kwakiutl potlatch. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    The authors refute earlier explanations of the potlatch and instead propose that its role is a well-established means of settling disputes.

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  • Newell, Dianne, and Dorothee Schreiber. 2006. Collaborations on the periphery: The Wolcott-Sewid potlatch controversy. BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly 152:7–33.

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    An article that explores the different expectations at a potlatch by an anthropologist observer and a First Nation participant.

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  • Rosman, Abraham, and Paula G. Rubel. 1971. Feasting with mine enemy: Rank and exchange among Northwest Coast societies. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

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    A comparison of the social structures and the potlatches of six NWC First Nations.

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  • Sewid-Smith, Daisy (My-yah-nelth). 1979. Prosecution or persecution. Cape Mudge, BC: Nu-Yum-Baleess Society.

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    The book, based on interviews with Kwakwaka’wakw Elders, was written to mark the repatriation of the “potlatch collection” to the new museum in Cape Mudge.

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Traditional Knowledge

Historical and contemporary NWC ethnographic literature encompasses a broad range of studies of traditional knowledge and material culture. Much of this information has become important to academic and Indigenous communities, and comprises components of cultural revitalization, land claims, and educational programs in schools and Indigenous cultural centers. Studies of traditional women’s work—particularly weaving—is gaining more attention as chiefly robes, woven clan hats, and chief’s hats with potlach rings become familiar sights at ceremonies and gatherings. Samuel 1982 presents the textile traditions of the northern coast, while Tepper, et al. 2017 explores weaving among the Coast Salish of southern British Columbia. There has also been a revitalization in basketry, as a new generation of weavers study the variety of baskets produced for different household tasks. These are illustrated in Emmons 1903 and Haeberlin, et al. 1928. Deur and Turner 2005 is an example of the recent work with elders in the field of ethnobotany. Such publications lead to a new understanding of how traditional knowledge guides both the cultivating and the harvesting of plants for food, medicine, dyes, bedding, and materials for weaving and spinning. Ethnographic studies document woodworking techniques, from the ancient logging of cedar trees using stone tools and shell knives (Stewart 1984) to the building of large multigenerational plank houses (MacDonald 1983). The Tribal Canoe Journey, which brings NWC First Nations to their neighboring communities, has helped to renew the traditions of canoe construction, the composition and singing of paddling songs, and ancient welcome ceremonies. Ramsay and Jones 2010 is a case study of the Haida canoe. The NWC totem pole, which is carved with crests associated with the family’s clan and raised upright in front of lineage houses, has become an iconic image of the culture. Barbeau 1998, a two-volume set, is a comprehensive compilation of historical poles. Jonaitis and Glass 2010 traces the transformation of this material culture into an international object that now also stands in public spaces around the world.

  • Barbeau, Marius. 1998. Totem poles. 2 vols. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Civilization.

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    A survey of poles on the NWC, many of them photographed in the villages where Barbeau conducted his fieldwork. The first volume is organized by totemic crests and topics, the second by location.

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  • Deur, Douglas, and Nancy J. Turner. 2005. Keeping it living: Traditions of plant use and cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    The volume brings together articles that demonstrate a history of cultivation in cultures once considered to be solely composed of hunters and gatherers.

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  • Emmons, George T. 1903. The basketry of the Tlingit. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History 3.2: 229–277.

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    Emmons (b. 1852–d. 1945) was a naval officer who traveled to Alaska and became interested in Indigenous communities. He collected material culture and wrote ethnography about the Tlingit.

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  • Haeberlin, Herman Karl, James A. Teit, and Helen H. Roberts. 1928. Coiled basketry in British Columbia and surrounding regions. In Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1919–1924. Edited by J. Walter Fewkes, Franz Boas, and William Edward Myer, 119–483. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

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    A classic work of ethnographic research based in part on Teit’s interviews with basket makers in the early 20th century.

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  • Jonaitis, Aldona, and Aaron Glass. 2010. The totem pole: An intercultural history. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

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    A study of the changing roles of totem poles over time and location.

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  • MacDonald, George F. 1983. Haida monumental art: Villages of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    MacDonald uses historical photographs and archaeological findings to determine the placement of Haida houses and their associated totem poles in the ancient villages of Haida Gwaii.

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  • Ramsay, Heather, and Kwiaahwah Jones. 2010. Gina ’waadluxan tluu: The everything canoe. Skidegate, BC: Haida Gwaii Museum Press.

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    A discussion of the land, history, and people of Haida Gwaii centered around the importance of the canoe.

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  • Samuel, Cheryl. 1982. The Chilkat dancing blanket. Seattle WA: Pacific Search Press.

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    Samuel’s study of the Chilkat blanket, and another volume on Raven’s Tail blankets, has helped Native weavers bring these ceremonial textiles back into use among northern NWC communities.

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  • Stewart, Hilary. 1984. Cedar: Tree of life to the Northwest Coast Indians. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.

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    One of several books Stewart wrote that illustrates the archaeology, fishing technology, totem poles, and art of the NWC. These volumes are excellent introductions to the region’s material culture.

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  • Tepper, Leslie H., Janice George (Chepximiya Siyam), and Willard Joseph (Skwetsimltexw). 2017. Salish blankets: Robes of protection and transformation, symbols of wealth. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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    A collaborative project that combines the analysis of historical and contemporary chief’s robes with stories and teachings from Salish communities.

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Art

The literature on NWC art has expanded beyond its original ethnographic framework to become a subject of art history and gallery exhibition. Interest in NWC art may have been facilitated by the publication of Holm 1978. Holm’s identification of a limited number of motifs and their combinations make complex images more accessible to the general public. A 1971 exhibit that emphasized the continuity of NWC art forms, from historical context to contemporary expression, is acknowledged as a turning point in the study of NWC Art (see Macnair, et al. 1980). Such ties between the past and present are reinforced as museums and galleries invite contemporary artists to review their collections and select objects for exhibition. Two modern Haida artists, James Hart and Reg Davidson, were among the earliest Indigenous curators (see Hart and Davidson 1990). One of the largest NWC exhibitions was a Smithsonian collaboration with eleven First Nations and their selection of some 400 objects for display (Macnair, et al. 2005). Indigenous museums and cultural centers on the NWC often exhibit artists living and working in their communities. Collison 2014, for example, showcases people working in a variety of media. While Holm’s book focuses on the traditional art forms of northern NWC art, Brotherton 2008 brings together new research that highlights the art style found on the southern coast. Another important turning point for NWC art was Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics, when the city commissioned artists from different First Nations for new installations. Such installations have continued with a recent sculpture by Luke Marston (see Fournier 2014) that celebrates both his Indigenous and Portuguese ancestry.

  • Brotherton, Barbara. 2008. S’abadeb: The gifts: Pacific Coast Salish arts and artists. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

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    The curator worked with Coast Salish communities in Washington State and BC to gather items from multiple museum collections for this first exhibition of southern NWC art at the Seattle Art Museum.

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  • Collison, Nika, ed. 2014. Gina Suuda Tl’l Xasii came to tell something: Art and artist in Haida society. Skidegate, BC: Haida Gwaii Museum Press.

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    The Museum of Haida Gwaii celebrates artists working in a variety of traditional materials, from canoe building to weaving.

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  • Fournier, Suzanne. 2014. “Shore to Shore”: The art of Ts’uts’umutl Luke Marston. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing.

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    Marston’s preparation for the sculpture Shore to Shore included family interviews with his Salish community in BC and travels to meet his ancestral family in the Azores.

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  • Hart, Jim, and Reg Davidson. 1990. Haida artifacts: An exhibit with commentaries. Berkeley: The Lowie Museum of Anthropology, Univ. of California.

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    An early example of First Nation engagement with exhibition development in anthropology museums.

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  • Holm, Bill. 1978. Northwest Coast Indian art: An analysis of form. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

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    The book breaks down NWC design into primary, secondary, and tertiary elements, provides a vocabulary to talk about major forms such as the “U” and “split U,” and reveals the principles of composition.

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  • Macnair, Peter L., Alan L. Hoover, and Kevin Neary. 1980. The legacy: Continuing traditions of Canadian Northwest Coast Indian art. Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum.

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    Edition prepared for traveling exhibition. This catalogue was prepared almost ten years after the original exhibit in order to accompany an international tour.

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  • Macnair, Peter L, Jay Stewart, Robert Joseph, and Mary Jane Lenz, eds. 2005. Listening to our ancestors: The art of Native life along the North Pacific Coast. Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.

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    The collaborative process of this exhibition enabled NWC First Nation communities to research and explore the Smithsonian collections.

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Ethnohistory

Growing interest in the ethnohistory of the NWC is noted in Harkin 1996, which provides an overview of the ethnohistorical approaches used over the past 125 years of NWC studies. Ethnologists studying the impacts of the fur trade, missionary work, and colonial policies rely on a variety of European records. Ship captains and officers on late18th-century exploratory missions, such as Captain Vancouver (Fisher and Fiegehen 1992), and Dionisio Alacalá-Galiano (Espinosa y Tello 1971), and later on fur-trading vessels, often published their adventures after they returned home. Henry 1984 compiles a visual resource for this period, showing drawings by the various scientist-explorers who accompanied the expeditions. Gibson 1992 writes about the later period of European-Native contact, which began with the expansion of the British, American, and Russian fur trade and the establishment of permanent trading posts. Historians also research specific topics in greater detail. Gough 1984 looks at the role of the Royal Navy in the imposition of colonial rule. Boyd 1999 chronicles the devastation of multiple epidemics on NWC Native populations, and Knight 1978 traces the rise of wage labor and its impact on First Nation communities. A third phase of significant ethnohistorical change followed the arrival of missionaries and settlers to the NWC. The relevant literature includes accounts by the missionaries Collison, Sproat, and Crosby, and analyses by historians such as Clarence Bolt (see Bolt 1992). Patterson 1986 provides information on the Native people who converted to Christianity and became missionaries themselves.

  • Bolt, Clarence R. 1992. Thomas Crosby and the Tsimshian: Small shoes for feet too large. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    Bolt’s biography of Thomas Crosby is one of several recent biographies of missionaries, and it provides the context of late-19th-century encounters on the NWC.

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  • Boyd, Robert T. 1999. The coming of the spirit of pestilence: Introduced infectious diseases and population decline among Northwest Coast Indians, 1774–1874. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    A demographic study of the effect of introduced diseases on pre-contact populations.

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  • Espinosa y Tello, José. 1971. A Spanish voyage to Vancouver and the North-West Coast of America: Being the narrative of the voyage made in the year 1792 by the schooners Sutil and Mexicana to explore the Strait of Fuca. Edited by Cecil Jane. New York: Da Capo Press.

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    These vessels circumnavigated Vancouver Island during a four-month period and collected geographical and ethnological data.

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  • Fisher, Robin, and Gary Fiegehen. 1992. Vancouver’s voyage: Charting the Northwest Coast, 1791–1795. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

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    A detailed study of Vancouver’s voyage, including charts, drawings by the crew, and photographs showing the rugged coastlines along his passage.

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  • Gibson, James R. 1992. Otter skins, Boston ships, and China goods: The maritime fur trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785–1841. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

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    A comprehensive study of the Russian, Spanish, British, and American fur trade, including information on the Chinese market for otter skins.

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  • Gough, Barry M. 1984. Gunboat frontier: British Maritime authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846–90. Pacific Maritime Studies 4. Vancouver: Univ. of British Columbia Press.

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    Gough draws on admiralty papers and other historical documents to research the role of the Royal Navy on the NWC.

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  • Harkin, Michael. 1996. Past presence: Conceptions of history in Northwest Coast studies. Arctic Anthropology 33.2: 1–15.

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    An overview of ethnohistorical approaches in NWC studies.

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  • Henry, John Frazier. 1984. Early maritime artists of the Pacific Northwest Coast, 1741–1841. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

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    The sketches and visual recordings by members of the exploring expeditions offer an addition to, and different ethnographic information from, the written records.

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  • Knight, Rolf. 1978. Indians at work: An informal history of Native labour in British Columbia, 1848–1930. Vancouver, BC: New Star Books.

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    Knight discusses the role of the Indigenous population in BC’s major industries, such as logging, fish canneries, mining, and employment as migrant farm laborers.

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  • Patterson, Palmer E. 1986. Native missionaries of the North Pacific Coast, Philip McKay and others. Pacific Historian 30.1: 22–37.

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    Patterson focuses on the history of missionaries in BC.

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Land Claims, Reconciliation, and Repatriation

A relatively new area of academic research examines the social, cultural, and political changes resulting from the growing demand for Aboriginal rights in British Columbia. Tennant 1990 presents an overview of the historical context and contemporary issues, while Leland, et al. 1999 provides access to some of the early Indigenous voices. Takeda 2015 shows a case study of one of the essential components of land claims: the control of traditional resources, as demonstrated by the Haida’s successful fight over the forests on Haida Gwaii. Harris 2002 offers a history of the early contact period and the series of commissions and rulings that reduced traditional territories to the current parcels of Reserve land. The successful completion of a modern treaty for the Nisga’a is presented in Raunet 1984. Researchers can find important colonial documents in government archives, as well as contemporary information about treaties on websites posted by provincial and federal departments, First Nations band councils, tribal councils, and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. Several NWC First Nations have brought their case for Aboriginal rights to the provincial court system, with appeals taken to the Supreme Court of Canada. Antonia Mills served as an expert witness for the Gitxsan and Witsuwit’en land claims case, and has published the argument she made for Aboriginal rights (Mills 1994). Recently, Canada has moved toward reconciliation with its Native population. In 2008 the prime minister apologized for the century-long treatment of children in residential schools, which were usually run by members of religious orders. Barker 1998 presents a case study of reconciliation offered by the Anglican Church to the Nisga’a. Indigenous communities are also engaged in the repatriation of artifacts and human remains from museum collections. Cole 1985, a history of collecting on the NWC, traces the institutions and individuals involved in the transfer of material culture and physical anthropology from Native coastal communities to museums around the world. Kramer 2006 is a case study of the selling and return of an ancestral dance mask that explores questions of family versus community ownership and modern identity.

  • Barker, John. 1998. Tangled reconciliations: The Anglican Church and the Nisga’a of British Columbia. American Ethnologist 25.3: 433–451.

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    The author looks at efforts made by the Anglican Church to establish a new relationship with the Indigenous community.

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  • Cole, Douglas. 1985. Captured heritage: The scramble for Northwest Coast artifacts. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.

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    Cole focuses on the period between 1875 and 1930, when a large amount of NWC material culture entered museums such as the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

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  • Harris, Cole. 2002. Making Native space: Colonialism, resistance, and Reserves in British Columbia. Vancouver: Univ. of British Columbia Press.

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    One of several books by Harris on colonialism, settlement, and the Indigenous presence in British Columbia.

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  • Kramer, Jennifer. 2006. Switchbacks: Art, ownership, and Nuxalk national identity. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    The author discusses conflicting rights of family-owned ceremonial regalia, including masks used for potlatch performances, in a contemporary community that is trying to preserve its First Nation identity.

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  • Leland, Donald, Deidre Sanders, Kathleen Mooney, and Naneen Stuckey. 1999. What the people said: Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-Chah-Nulth, and Tsimshian testimonies before the Royal Commission on Indian Affairs for the Province of British Columbia (1913–1916). Canadian Journal of Native Studies 19.2: 213.

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    Known as the McKenna-McBride Commission, the final report adjusted the size and quality of land set aside for Reserves. The material, consisting of witness transcripts and reports, is available on microfilm in the BC Archives and in a searchable format on the website of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

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  • Mills, Antonia Curtze. 1994. Eagle down is our law: Witsuwit’en law, feasts, and land claims. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    On the NWC, “eagle down” is a symbol of the peaceful relationships between lineages, between humans and animals, and between living beings and the supernatural. This peaceful relationship is the goal of the Indigenous and settler communities.

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  • Raunet, Daniel. 1984. Without surrender, without consent: A history of the Nishga land claims. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.

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    The Nisga’a were the first community to successfully negotiate and sign a modern-day treaty in BC.

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  • Takeda, Louise. 2015. Islands’ spirit rising: Reclaiming the forests of Haida Gwaii. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

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    Native and non-Native protestors worked together for many years to save old-growth forests on the NWC. Through land agreements and a national park, the Haida Gwaii community has been able to protect large areas of the island, including an offshore portion of the coastal shelf.

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  • Tennant, Paul. 1990. Aboriginal peoples and politics: The Indian Land question in British Columbia. Vancouver: Univ. of British Columbia Press.

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    One of the first studies on land claims.

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Resources

The documentation of NWC society by early anthropologists has been supplemented, refined, and corrected by later generations of ethnologists and ethnohistorians, Indigenous researchers, elders, and artists. This section of the bibliography identifies resources for further study.

Journals

Boas and other early ethnographers, Indian agents (such as James Dean), and amateur anthropologists (such as Charles Hill-Tout) published in a variety of 19th-century and early-20th-century journals. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland and American Anthropologist are two of the earliest journals on ethnology. They continue to publish important articles on the Northwest Coast. BC Studies, The Midden and the Journal of Northwest Anthropology focus on the history, ethnology, and archaeology of the NWC.

Institutional Resources

Several museums and archives have had long-term interest in studying the NWC because of their geographical location, the institute’s mandate, or the research interests of their staff and employees. The Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s national museum, and the Royal British Columbia Museum is a provincial museum that mandates the study and exhibition of NWC history and culture. The National Museum of Natural History (part of the Smithsonian Institution) and the American Museum of Natural History have important NWC collections of artifact or archival materials, including documents, photographs, and audio tapes of songs and language recordings, as well as historical and contemporary films. Additional resources can be found in university museums, such as the Burke Museum in Washington State and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia

Bibliographies

Though bibliographies, by their very nature, are out-of-date soon after their compilation, they can still bring together earlier scholarship published in a range of books, monographs, journal articles, annual reports, and short notes in obscure proceedings. An overview of the NWC holdings of one important institution, the Newberry Library (Grumet 1979), offers a reading list of key resources. Bibliographies on the NWC often focus on specific aspects of ethnology or history. Barker 1988 assembles writings on the history of missionary activity on the NWC. Two bibliographies, Bradley 1975 and Wardwell and Lebov 1970, take different approaches to the classification of material culture. The first presents studies of arts and crafts, and the second looks at fine art. Other resource lists, such as Brian Thom’s Coast Salish Homepage and the Canadian Museum of History’s Haida bibliography (Mauro, et al. 2005), concentrate on a particular cultural group. Archival finding aids, including American Philosophical Society 1972 and Cove 1985, provide access to large collections of correspondence, research notes, and writings about the NWC.

  • American Philosophical Society. 1972. Guide to the microfilm collection of the professional papers of Franz Boas. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., in cooperation with the American Philosophical Society.

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    The American Philosophical Society was established in the last quarter of the 18th century and serves as an archive, library, and museum. Many of Boas’s fieldwork notes and writings are housed here.

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  • Barker, John. 1988. Bibliography of missionary activities and religious change in Northwest Coast Societies. Journal of Northwest Anthropology 22.1: 13–57.

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    Barker, a professor at the University of British Columbia, writes on the “interface” of Indigenous communities and Christianity. He has worked with several NWC communities and written about McIlwraith among the Bella Coola (Nuxalk).

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  • Bradley, Ian L. 1975. A bibliography of arts and crafts of Northwest Coast Indians. BC Studies 25:94–109.

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    One of several bibliographies prepared by Bradley on Canadian Indigenous culture. This article lists over 700 citations on NWC material culture as well as dance and music.

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  • Brian Thom’s Coast Salish Homepage.

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    An extensive bibliography of writings on the history and ethnography of this southern NWC First Nation.

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  • Cove, John J. 1985. A detailed inventory of the Barbeau Northwest Coast files. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada.

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    Barbeau’s extensive field notes were usually written in a shorthand that he devised. Much of his archival material at the Canadian Museum of History has been transcribed and the collection can be searched online and through Cove’s inventory.

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  • Grumet, Robert Steven. 1979. Native Americans of the Northwest Coast: A critical bibliography. Newberry Library Bibliographical Series. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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    A selection of 200 citations from the thousands of books, manuscripts, and maps referencing the NWC in the Newberry Library.

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  • Mauro, Sylvia, Crystal Parsons, and Leslie Tepper, comps. 2005. The Haida. Gatineau, Quebec: Canadian Museum of History.

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    Prepared for an exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History, the listings include historical and contemporary writings on the Haida of northern BC and southern Alaska.

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  • Wardwell, Allen, and Lois Lebov. 1970. Annotated bibliography of Northwest Coast Indian art. New York: Museum of Primitive Art.

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    Wardwell, a scholar of Asian and Indigenous art, curated two major exhibitions of NWC art: one from the collections of the American Museum of Natural History, and the other on shamanic material culture.

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