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Kwakwaka'wakw

Kwakwaka'wakw
Richard Hunt carving.jpg
Richard Hunt, Kwakwaka'wakw artist
Total population
(5,500)
Regions with significant populations
 Canada ( British Columbia)
Languages
English, Kwak'wala
Religion
Christianity, Traditional Indigenous religion
Related ethnic groups
Haisla, Heiltsuk, Wuikinuxv

The Kwakiutl (/ˈkwɑːkjʊtəl/; natively Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw "Kwak'wala-speaking peoples"IPA: [ˈkʷakʷəkʲəʔwakʷ]) are a Pacific Northwest Coast indigenous people. Their current population is approximately 5,500. Most live in British Columbia on northern Vancouver Island and the adjoining mainland, and on islands around Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait. Some also live outside their homelands in urban areas such as Victoria and Vancouver. They are politically organized into 13 band governments, consisting of a total population of about 5,500.

Their language, now spoken by only 3.1% of the population, consists of four dialects of what is commonly referred to as Kwak'wala. These dialects are Kwak̓wala, ’Nak̓wala, G̱uc̓ala and T̓łat̓łasik̓wala.

The name Kwakiutl derives from Kwagu'ł—the name of a single community of Kwakwaka'wakw located at Fort Rupert. The anthropologist Franz Boas had done most of his anthropological work in this area and popularized the term for both this nation and the collective as a whole. The term became misapplied to mean all the nations who spoke Kwak'wala, as well as three other indigenous peoples whose language is a part of the Wakashan linguistical group, but whose language is not Kwak'wala. These peoples, incorrectly known as the Northern Kwakiutl, were the Haisla, Wuikinuxv, and Heiltsuk.



  • Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch Aldona Jonaitis (Editor) U. Washington Press 1991 (also a publication of the American Museum of Natural History)
  • Bancroft-Hunt, Norman. People of the Totem: The Indians of the Pacific Northwest University of Oklahoma Press, 1988
  • Boas, Contributions to the Ethnology of the Kwakiutl, Columbia University Contributions to Anthropology, vol. 3, New York: Columbia University Press, 1925.
  • Fisher, Robin. Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774–1890, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1977.
  • Goldman, Irving. The Mouth of Heaven: an Introduction to Kwakiutl Religious Thought, New York: Joh Wiley and Sons, 1975.
  • Hawthorn, Audrey. Kwakiutl Art. University of Washington Press. 1988. .
  • Jonaitis, Aldona. Chiefly Feasts: the Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991.
  • Masco, Joseph. “It is a Strict Law that Bids Us Dance”: Cosmologies, Colonialism, Death, and Ritual Authority in the Kwakwaka’wakw Potlatch, 1849 to 1922, San Diego: University of California.
  • Reid, Martine and Daisy Sewid-Smith. Paddling to Where I Stand, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004.
  • Spradley, James. Guests Never Leave Hungry, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969.
  • Umista Cultural Society. Creation myth of Kwakwaka’wakw (December 1, 2007).
  • Walens, Stanley “Review of the Mouth of Heaven by Irving Goldman,” American Anthropologist, 1981.
  • Wilson, Duff. The Indian History of British Columbia, 38-40; Sessional Papers, 1873–1880.
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