Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Nuxalk are a Canadian First Nations group living on the central coast of British Columbia, Canada. They speak a Salishan language known as Bella Coola that is isolated from the other Salishan languages of the coast. Subsistence was centered on fishing (primarily salmon), as well as hunting and gathering with some limited trade. Social structure consisted of chiefs, an aristocracy, commoners, and slaves. Nuxalk families are large in size and trace their descent ambilineally to a particular area of Nuxalk territory. Household members supported one another in potlatching and economic pursuits.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Northwest Coast and California



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Cultures collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Nuxalk (NE06) collection covers a wide range of ethnographic topics, but is somewhat lacking in data on material culture. The date of coverage for the collection ranges from approximately 1840 to 2006. The primary documents dealing with the traditional ethnography of the Nuxalk are: McIlwraith (1948, nos. 1 and 2), Kennedy and Bouchard (1990, n. 9), and Boas (1892, no. 6). Other topics include: mythology and religion in Boas (1900, no. 7); the importance of magic and sorcery in Nuxalk society in Smith (1925, no. 3); the examination of two old Nuxalk dance masks in Kramer (2006, no. 13); the repatriation of an old Echo mask to the tribe in Kramer (2006, no. 11); and the teaching of Nuxalk cultural traditions by the traditional vs. western methods in Kramer (2006, no. 12).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary was written by Adam Arthur Solomonian of the University of British Columbia. The synopsis and indexing notes were added by John Beierle in April 2011.

Overview by

John Beierle

Ancestral family Use SIBS ( 614)

Gift investments –given to individual in expectation of a return with interest– Use BORROWING AND LENDING ( 426)


Ku’siut –the winter ceremonial of the Nuxalk– Use ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL ( 796)

Matsqus –supernatural beings, monsters– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Potlatches –at which the dead visit– Use CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769)

Potlatches –in general– Use LEGAL AND JUDICIAL PERSONNEL ( 693) and/or GIFT GIVING ( 431)

Potlatches –to validate a name 553– Use NAMING ( 553)

Professional wailers Use MORTUARY SPECIALISTS ( 767)

Rebuying of a wife by her family Use MODE OF MARRIAGE ( 583)

Repatriation –the return of an object (work of art, skeletal remains, etc.) to its place of origin– Use INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS ( 648)

River guardians –an individual who enforces rules regarding river taboos– Use LEGAL AND JUDICIAL PERSONNEL ( 693)

Sisaok siki –a native secular/religious society– Use SODALITIES ( 575)

Talia –as a form of wealth (‘coppers”)– Use ACCUMULATION OF WEALTH ( 556)

Tally post and wash basin, mythological Use MYTHOLOGY ( 773) with LUCK AND CHANCE ( 777)

Totem poles Use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778)

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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