Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Nuu-Chah-Nulth live primarily on the western coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, A closely related group, the Makah, live in the Cape Flattery area of northwestern Washington State, The Nuu-Chah-Nulth and the related Makah speak languages in the Southern Wakashan language family. Traditionally, subsistence was based on the hunting of both land and sea animals (seals, whales) as well as fishing (primarily salmon), supplemented by the gathering of wild plants and roots. The basic political unit was the local group. Several local groups together constituted a tribe governed by a chief. In Nuu-Chah-Nulth society each person had an inherited social rank, and all Nuu-Chah-Nulth were rank-ordered in relation to each other. Class structure was apparent by the division of communities into nobles, commoners, and slaves.


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


North America --Northwest Coast and California



United States

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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 Nuu-Chah-Nulth (NE11) collection covers a period from about 1780 to 1990. The various works making up this collection are roughly divided between the northern, central, and southern Nuu-Chah-Nulth tribes of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, and the Makah, a subgroup living on the Olympic Peninsula at Neah Bay, Washington State in the United States. Major studies in this collection are: Drucker (1951, no. 1), Colson (1953, no. 2), Swan (1870, no. 3), Koppert (1930, no. 11), Sapir and Swadesh (1955, no. 12), Arima and Dewhirst (1990, no. 20), and Reniker and Gunther (1990, no. 21). Other ethnographic topics discussed in this collection are: the girl's puberty ceremony and potlatch in Sapir (1913, no. 9); Makah games in Dorsey (1901, no. 6); an analysis of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth wolf ritual in Ernst (1952, no 18); changing marriage patterns over a one hundred year period (1860-1960), in Gunther (1962, no. 19), and an account of a modern (ca.1970s)) Nuku-Chah-Nulth community (Vancouver Island) in historical perspective in Kenyon (1980, no. 22).

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

Overview by

John Beierle

Local groups Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621)

Ōtōpalinik –age-grade clubs– Use AGE STRATIFICATION ( 561)

Tribal council Use PARLIAMENT ( 646)

Túpat –ceremonial privileges (personal names, dances, costumes, games, songs and specific roles in the secret societies)– Use INCORPOREAL PROPERTY ( 424)

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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