Craig, Prince of Wales Island, and
Inside Passage Native cultures include the Tlingit (from Yakutat
to Ketchikan), Haida (from Queen Charlotte Islands, Kasaan, and
Hydaburg), and the Tsimshian (British Columbia, Hyder, Metlakatla,
and south of Ketchikan).
The people of the coast have simi liar complex social systems,
but the languages are very different.
Best known for their totem poles, Inside Passage Natives
also create beautiful baskets, ceremonial robes and blankets, silver
jewelry, woodcarvings, prints, bentwood boxes, and masks.
Blessed with abundant resources, West Coast people
survived by subsistence, living off the land and the water- still
a crucial part of their cultural identity. Museums display artistic,
functional native tools like fish traps, harpoons, and spears,
as well as clothing and regalia (ceremonial clothing).
The potlatch is the West Coast Native gathering to commemorate
major life events, such as funerals, weddings, naming, raising
totem poles, or eradicating shame or debt. It was a time of feasting,
singing, dancing and gift giving to demonstrate wealth. Most potlatches
traditionally lasted for days.
Coastal Native people have a matrilineal society;
children inherit rights through their mothers. The Tlingit social
system is based on two equal moieties, or halves (the Eagle or
Wolf and the Raven).
Traditions are changing with the times although
much remains and is as strong as ever. Native corporations help
to keep the culture flourishing through language, cultural, and
In June of 2004, a biennial gathering of Native people
from all over the United States and Canada met in Juneau
to celebrate cultural diversity with dances, songs and workshops.