Northwest Maritime Culture

Northwest Maritime Cultural Traits

1.   Sedentary hunter/fisher/gatherers
.   Hunted whales and seals
.   Fish an important food source, particularly salmon
.   Acorns an important food source
.   Made and relied on large dugout cedar boats
2.   Practiced Northwestern animistic religion
.   Practiced potlatch
.   Strict incest taboos
.   Puberty rites of passage:
.   Usually monogamous
.   Shaman based
3.   Occasionally at war
4.   Capitalistic
5.   Excellent basket weavers and made basket hats
6.   Lived in large cedar plank houses which accommodated 3 to 10 families (totem poles appeared after 1780)
7.   Traded extensively
8.   No government
9.   Excellent carvers
10. Traded for and kept slaves

Northwest Maritime Culture languages and tribes:

Phylum / Stock / Family / Language Tribe
Mosan / Wakashan / Nootka / Makahan Makah, WA (Several other Wakashan tribes in British Columbia)
Northwest Maritime Ethnobotany
Common Name Scientific Name Use Comment
Alaska Cedar Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (D. Don) Spach Boats Used to make canoes and paddles
Basketry Bark fibers, nettle fibers and dog hair used to make a stronger rope.
Aleutian Maidenhair Adiantum aleuticum (Rupr.) Paris Basketry Stems used for the designs in baskets.
American Skunkcabbage Lysichiton americanus Hultén & St. John Food Root centers eaten after boiling eight times.
Container Leaves used for drying salal berries and to line berry baskets.
Cooking Leaves used to cover sprouts while cooking.
Bitter Cherry Prunus emarginata (Dougl. ex Hook.) D. Dietr. Basketry Bark strips used to make baskets.
Black Cottonwood Populus deltoides Bartr. ex Marsh. Cordage Fibers, dog hair and nettles used to make stronger ropes.
Blue Huckleberry Vaccinium membranaceum Dougl. ex Torr. Food Berries eaten fresh, berries pulped, dried and stored for winter use.
Bog Labradortea Ledum groenlandicum Oeder Drink Leaves used to make a beverage tea.
Broadleaf Cattail Typha latifolia L. Clothing Leaves woven together to make raincoats
Boats Fruiting stalks made into mats and used for kneeling pads in canoes.
Misc. Fruiting stalks used to make mats for hangings, screens and mattresses.
Bull Whip Kelp Nereocystis luetkeana (Mert.) Post. & Rupr. Cordage Solid stipes used for tying, lower stipes used for ropes and fishing lines, blades used to cover fish in the boat, while at sea, to prevent the fish from drying out.
Container Enlarged upper portion of the stipes used as molds for cosmetics, enlarged upper portion of stipes dried and rinsed with fresh water and used for oil storage bottles, enlarged upper portion of the stipes used as steam boxes for making halibut hooks.
Cooking Enlarged upper portion of stipes used as funnels for pouring water onto hot rocks in pit cooking.
Bunchberry Dogwood Cornus canadensis L. Food Berries eaten fresh.
Buttercup or Greater Creeping Spearwort Ranunculus flammula var. filiformis (Michx.) Hook. Food Roots cooked on hot rocks, dipped in whale or seal oil and eaten with dried salmon eggs.
California Blackberry Rubus ursinus ssp. macropetalus (Dougl. ex Hook.) Taylor & MacBryde Food Berries eaten fresh, berries pulped and dried for winter use, fruits stewed and used for food.
Canoe Cedar or Western Redcedar or Arbor-vitae Thuja plicata Donn ex D. Don Boats Wood used to make canoes.
Basketry Inner bark used for basketry.
Cordage Used to make ropes.
Ceremony Wood used to make totem poles.
Containers Wood used to make boxes.
Cooking Wood used to make fish barbecuing sticks and cross pieces.
Weapons Used to make arrow shafts.
Hunting Limbs used for towing dead whales out of the water.
Misc. Bark used to line baby cradles, bark cut into narrow strips and woven into mats.
Clothing Bark pounded until soft and made into clothes, used to make the lining and head bands of rain hats.
Cascade Oregongrape Mahonia nervosa (Pursh) Nutt. Food Ripe berries formerly used for food, berries pulped, dried and stored in cakes for winter use.
Dye Roots used to dye basketry material.
Coastal Sand Verbena Abronia latifolia Eschsch. Food Roots eaten in the fall.
Columbian Lily Lilium columbianum hort. ex Baker Food Bulbs baked or steamed in an earth oven and eaten, corms steamed and eaten.
Common Beargrass Xerophyllum tenax (Pursh) Nutt. Basketry New sprouts used to make baskets, especially for designs, grass used as a border pattern in baskets.
Clothing Small leaves used to make dresses.
Cows Clover Trifolium wormskioldii Lehm. Food Roots eaten raw or cooked with fermented salmon eggs.
Devilsclub Oplopanax horridus Miq. Fishing Wood used to make lures and hooks for bass fishing, wood used to make lures for cod fishing.
Ceremony Plant burned to make charcoal used as a protective face paint for ceremonial dancers.
Dune Willow Salix hookeriana Barratt ex Hook. Basketry Used to make baskets.
Emerson Betony Stachys mexicana Benth. Food Plants used to cover steaming sprouts.
Fragrant Bedstraw Galium triflorum Michx. Misc. Plant crushed and used as a perfume.
Giant Horsetail Equisetum telmateia var. braunii (Milde) Milde Food Young, sterile or fertile shoots peeled, washed or soaked in cold water and eaten raw, strobili boiled in water for ten minutes and eaten, vegetative shoots used as a source of drinking water when traveling.
Hollyleaved Barberry Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt. Dye Root used to dye porcupine quills yellow.
Food Fruit eaten raw or mashed, berries pulped, dried and stored in cakes for winter use.
Indian Plum Oemleria cerasiformis (Torr. & Gray ex Hook. & Arn.) Landon Cordage Inner bark strips used to bind harpoons.
Kelp Nereocystis luetkeana (Mert.) Post. & Rupr. Container Bottle ends used to carry fish oil and molasses.
Fishing Kelp used as fishing culture for fish line.
Leathery Polybody Polypodium scouleri Hook. & Grev. Food Species used for food.
Licorice Fern Polypodium glycyrrhiza D.C. Eat. Food Rhizomes chewed, on hunting trips, to curb the appetite, rhizomes eaten raw, especially by children, because of the licorice flavor.
Nodding Onion Allium cernuum Roth Food Bulbs pit baked and used for food.
Oceanspray Holodiscus discolor (Pursh) Maxim. Cooking Wood used to make roasting tongs, branches used for holding fish while barbecuing because they don't burn.
Weapons Wood used to make the prongs of duck spears, wood used to make practice bows and arrows for children.
Tools Wood used to make knitting needles.
Oregon Oxalis Oxalis oregana Nutt. Food Leaves eaten fresh
Ovalleaf Blueberry Vaccinium ovalifolium Sm. Food Fruit eaten fresh, berries dried and eaten, fruit dried into cakes and stored for future use.
Pacific Red Elder Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa Food  Berries steamed on rocks, cooled and eaten in the winter.
Mats Used to make mats.
Basketry Shoots used to make baskets.
Pacific Silverweed Argentina egedii ssp. egedii Food Peeled roots eaten raw or steamed.
Pacific Yew Taxus brevifolia Nutt. Food Berries eaten
Weapons Wood used to make bows and arrows
Smoking Wood used to make pipes
Boats Wood used to make canoe paddles
Tools Wood used to make chest high digging sticks
Panicled Bulrush Scirpus microcarpus J.& K. Presl Basketry Leaves used for the bottom portion of baskets.
Pursh's Buckthorn Frangula purshiana (DC.) Cooper Food Berries eaten fresh in the summer.
Red Alder Alnus rubra Bong. Basketry Roots and stems used
Food Sap used for food
Misc. Wood used to make baby cradles.
Red Elderberry Sambucus racemosa L. Food Fruit steamed, sun dried and placed in bentwood cedar boxes for storage, fruit eaten fresh, berry clusters placed in alder bark cones and submerged in cold creeks for storage.
Russet Buffaloberry Shepherdia canadensis (L.) Nutt. Food Berries whipped into a froth and used as dessert at feasts.
Salmonberry Rubus spectabilis Pursh Food Young sprouts eaten with seaweed and dried eels, berries eaten fresh, fruits stewed and used for food.
Salal Gaultheria shallon Pursh Food Berries eaten fresh, berries mashed, dried, made into cakes, dipped in whale or seal oil and eaten, berries mashed, formed into cakes and sun or air dried for winter use, leaves used to flavor smoked fish, leaves steamed with halibut heads for flavoring.
Smoking Leaves dried, pulverized and smoked with kinnikinnick.
Scouler's Surfgrass Phyllospadix scouleri Hook. Food Roots eaten raw in the spring.
Sea Peavine Lathyrus japonicus var. maritimus (L.) Kartesz & Gandhi Food Immature seeds eaten as peas.
Sitka Sedge Carex aquatilis var. dives (Holm) Kükenth. Basketry Used for the bottoms of trinket baskets.
Sitka Spruce Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr. Basketry Split roots used for basketry.
Food Pitch chewed as gum for pleasure, "little cones" and buds used for food, young shoots eaten raw.
Misc. Pitch used to fill cracks and knot holes in canoes, pitch used as glue to repair items such as harpoons, pitch used like shellac on harpoons, pitch used to waterproof boxes.
Small Camas Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene Food Bulbs used for food
Slough Sedge Carex obnupta Bailey Basketry Leaves used for the horizontal strands in basketry.
Small Cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccos L. Food Berries stored in boxes or baskets until soft and brown and used for food, fruit eaten fresh.
Spreading Gooseberry Ribes divaricatum Dougl. Food Berries eaten fresh and never stored.
Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica L. Food Plant tops used for food.
Fishing Leaves rubbed on fishing line to give it a green color or used as medicine for good fishing, fibers used to make fish and duck nets.
Basketry Fibers used in weaving baskets, fibers, yellow cedar bark or cottonwood fibers and dog hair used to make stronger ropes.
Cordage Fibers used to make string.
Stink Currant Ribes bracteosum Dougl. ex Hook. Food Berries eaten fresh
Thimbleberry Rubus parviflorus Nutt. Food Fruit eaten fresh, fruits stewed and used for food, young sprout eaten in spring
Toothed Surfgrass Phyllospadix serrulatus Rupr. ex Aschers. Food Rhizomes chewed or eaten raw.
Torrey's Surfgrass Phyllospadix torreyi S. Wats. Food Rhizomes chewed or eaten raw.
Basketry White, sun bleached leaves used in basketry.
Trailing Black Currant Ribes lacustre (Pers.) Poir. Food Berries eaten fresh.
Twinberry Honeysuckle Lonicera involucrata Banks ex Spreng. Basketry Fruit used as a dye for basketry materials.
Vine Maple Acer circinatum Pursh Basketry Used to make naskets
Water Parsley Oenanthe sarmentosa K. Presl ex DC. Toys Stalks cut and used as whistles by children.
Western Hemlock Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg. Fishing Young trees used in fish trap construction, boughs immersed in the water and used to collect herring eggs.
Food Young growth used for food.
Building Wood used for lumber.
Dye Bark used as a brown dye for basketry material and gill nets "so the fish won't see it."
Famine Food Old leaves eaten sparingly to keep alive when hungry in the woods.
Poison Compound of powdered bark and oil or pitch used on the hair to remove vermin.
Western Labradortea Ledum glandulosum Nutt. Drink Leaves simmered to make tea
Western Swordfern Polystichum munitum (Kaulfuss) K. Presl Misc. Leaves used for bedding
Cooking Leaves used for lining cooking pits, both above and below the foods, leaves used to wipe salmon, leaves used to line pits when steaming sprouts.
Food Leaves used to steam salmonberry sprouts on hot rocks, to give the sprouts flavor, roots steamed or cooked in a pit, rhizomes boiled and eaten.
Whitebark Raspberry Rubus leucodermis Dougl. ex Torr. & Food Fruit eaten fresh, fruits stewed and used for food.
Wild Celery or Seacoast Angelica Angelica lucida L. Food Peeled petioles used for food.
Youth on Age Tolmiea menziesii (Pursh) Torr. & Gray Food Sprouts eaten raw in early spring.
     Gill, Steven J. 1983 Ethnobotany of the Makah and Ozette People, Olympic Peninsula, Washington (USA). Washington State University, Ph.D. Thesis
     Gunther, Erna 1973 Ethnobotany of Western Washington. Seattle. University of Washington Press. Revised edition
     Turner, Nancy J., John Thomas, Barry F. Carlson and Robert T. Ogilvie 1983 Ethnobotany of the Nitinaht Indians of Vancouver Island. Victoria. British Columbia Provincial Museum