Email Us

Northwest Coastal People
Environment / Housing Food / Hunting / Tools Transportation / Migration Religion / Ceremonies / Art / Clothing Family / Social Structure / Leadership Tribal Relations / War
Arrival The Northwest Coastal People came here over 10,000 years ago.
Location
West Coast of British Columbia

Map Source - The Canadian Encyclopedia
Languages
Each main group had their own language, although some groups had a language which was similar to others. The main groups were divided due to having the same language family.
The Northwest Coast people have the most diverse languages of any First Peoples group in Canada. It is estimated that there are nineteen distinct languages spoken by the people. However, if the comparable languages are grouped together then the languages spoken in the area can be divided into five main language groups (for convenience sake), and they are:
  • Haida
  • Tlingit
  • Tsimshian - Nishga (Nisga'a) and Gitksan
  • Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) - Haisla, Heiltsuk, and Kwakwakw'wakw (Kwakiutl)
  • Salishan (Nuxalk and Coast Salish)
Nations
The Northwest Coast can be divided up into several main groups, although some estimates actually put the number of distinct First Peoples groups in British Columbia at 70. The main groups are the Haida, the Tlingit, the Tsimshian, the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka), and the Salishan.
Haida
Name The Haida called the islands on which they lived "Haida Gwaii".
Haida man in a headdress
Location Queen Charlotte Islands
Language Haida language - no relation to other language groups
Tlingit
Name Their name comes from what they call themselves - "Lingit", meaning "people".
Two Tlingit men in traditional dress
Location Northwest part of BC, southwest part of the Yukon.
Language Tlingit language - no relation to other language groups
Tsimshian
Name Their name means "People inside the Skeena River".
Tsimshian Shaman with drum
Location Along the Nass and Skeena Rivers
Language The Tsimshian language family can be broken down further into Nishga (Nisga'a) and Gitksan.
Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka)
Name "Nootka" means "come around" in their native language. When James Cook first encountered them, they told him to "come around" with his ship to the harbour in their language, which he mistakened for their name. "Nuu-chah-nulth" means "all along the mountains", describing the habitat of their people.
Nuu-chah-nulth woman
Location West Coast of Vancouver Island
Language The Nuu-chah-nulth language family can be broken down further into Haisla (Kitamaat), Heiltsuk (Bella Bella), and Kwakwakw'wakw (Kwakiutl)
Salishan
Name "Salishan" refers to the language family. There are numerous groups with numerous languages and dialects within the Salishan language family.
Coast Salish woman
Location Southwest coast of BC, beside Vancouver Island
Language The Salishian language family can be broken down further into Nuxalk (Bella Coola) and Coast Salish.
Environment / Housing Food / Hunting / Tools Transportation / Migration Religion / Ceremonies / Art / Clothing Family / Social Structure / Leadership Tribal Relations / War
Back to the top
Back to Canada's First Peoples Menu

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007