Our People

People of the Potlatch

“We are the Kwakwaka'wakw, the Kwak´wala-speaking people. We are eighteen tribes whose territory reaches from northern Vancouver Island southeast to the middle of the island, and includes smaller islands and inlets of Smith Sound, Queen Charlotte Strait, and Johnstone Strait.”
— Barb Cranmer, ‘Namgis Nation

The Kwakwaka'wakw (pronounced: KWOK-wok-ya-wokw) 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. Since a time beyond memory, the Kwakwaka'wakw have been hosting potlatch ceremonies and potlatching continues to play a central and unifying role in community life today.

The First Nations peoples of the North Pacific Coast region of North America share some cultural similarities that relate to our shared surroundings—the land, sea, climate, and resources. Over time, First Nations groups have changed in various political, social, and economical ways; yet they maintain their traditions. In Canada, First Nations people prefer to be identified by their tribal affiliations. As a group of people, the commonly accepted term in Canada is First Nations peoples. There are 197 distinct First Nations in British Columbia alone.

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