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Salmon of the West Coast

Gallery 1: Early Canada ⟶ Indigenous Nations ⟶ Plank House Villages of the West Coast

On the West Coast, First Peoples created wealth from salmon fishing. Surpluses from the fishery supported large permanent villages led by powerful chiefs and their families.

Productive and stable salmon runs made year-round settlements possible as early as 7,000 years ago. Beginning 4,000 years ago, First Peoples began to build large permanent communal houses. Over time, individuals came to own the right to fish in the richest locales. Powerful chiefs controlled villages and the surpluses which enhanced their power. They redistributed their wealth to display their prestige and sustain their communities.

Every spring through summer, hundreds of millions of salmon spawned in the rivers and streams of British Columbia. The predictability and abundance of these runs created a secure resource base. Groups came together at rivers to catch salmon using weirs, dip nets, harpoons and spears. The fish would then be processed, dried and stored for later consumption and trade. Deer, elk, birds, clams, marine fish and a great variety of seafood augmented a largely salmon-based diet.

Salmon Effigies

Salmon was an important food source. First Peoples sometimes embellished salmon-shaped stones for artistic and ceremonial reasons.

Fishing and Hunting

West Coast peoples made complex fishing and hunting tools. Fishing often required composite tools made from many materials.




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