Northwestern California Macro-Culture

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Ethnies Chilula, Chimariko, Eel River Tribes, Hupa, Karuk, Lassik, Nongatl, Shasta, Tolowa, Whilcut, Wiyot, Yurok, some southwestern Oregon ethnies
Transition Ethnies Achomawi, Atsugewi
Hub Ethnie Yurok
Shared Elements
Economy The macro-culture shared a capitalist economy with wealth driving virtually all activities.  Dentalium shells were used for money.  Blood money was recognized as well as debt slavery.
Government None.
Shamanism Female shamans only, received payment for services and were typically wealthy.
Housing Redwood plank cabins with an interior pit and a small hole entry to keep bears out.
Marriage Bride purchase and half marriage (men who could not afford the bride price worked as a slave for one year for the bride's family).
Dances White Deer Dance, Jump Dance, Brush Dance
Creation Story Motif Man Across the Water
Basketry Twining only
Primary Food Salmon and acorns
Taboos Twins.  Smothered one of twins upon birth.


     The Northwest California macro-culture featured many traits of the greater Northwest cultures.  The greater Northwest cultures undertook a metamorphosis in the mid-eighteenth century as a result pf Polynesian influences.  These changes manifested themselves particularly in art, both manual and performance.  Nonetheless, their overwhelmingly dentalium driven capitalistic economy and society was a feature that the Northwest California macro-culture shared with the other greater Northwest cultures.

     The Northwest California macro-culture was, on the average, a rich one in comparison to all other California macro-cultures.  Life was relatively easy along the salmon rich rivers and in the acorn and game rich forests for all but a few relatively small ethnies.  This afforded opportunities for the pursuing of  arts and the participation in ceremonies.

     Inter-culture contact within the Northwest California macro-culture, however, must have been minimal as compared to the other California macro-cultures as demonstrated by its great number of separate languages each with a relatively few speakers.  This large number of  languages surely developed subsequent to the arrival of most of the various ethnies barely more than a millennium ago.  Heavy inter-ethnie contact would have mitigated such linguistic diversity.

Northwestern California Plank House