The Kwakwaka'wakw of British Columbia have built a rich culture that reflects and acknowledges the riches in our natural environment. Our songs, stories, dances, and ceremonial objects honor the animals, rivers, cedar trees, salmon, and all those things that help to sustain the Kwakwaka'wakw physically and spiritually.
The sea life, particularly the salmon, the oolichan (pronounced:OO-la-kin)—a silvery, smeltlike fish—and the cedar tree are among the resources in the natural environment that have long made the Kwakwaka'wakw both spiritually and materially rich. For the Kwakwaka'wakw, the “good life” is not only about plenty of food and resources, but also about how we have used the resources, how we express our connection to living things, and our appreciation of those things that sustain them.
The Kwakwaka'wakw believe that animals, rivers, and trees are powerful beings that long ago existed in both the human world and the spirit world. The Kwakwaka'wakw coexisted with these ancestral beings and came to be related to certain animal spirits such as the salmon. The Kwakwaka'wakw believe that our wealth, which comes from our surroundings, is a result of our connection to the spirit beings. It is through the potlatch—an elaborate gift-giving and feasting ceremony—that we offer thanks to the ancestral spirits for their generosity, share our riches, and celebrate family ties.Next: Our Language