The Salish tribes consisted of 50+ smaller tribes,fewer are recognized today. They lived on the coast of the pacific ocean and stretched out into Montana. The Salish were blessed with a bounty of food and a rich family heritage.


  • 24,000-1,600 BP -The great Marpole Midden inhabited by Coast Salish
  • 6th century- established villages along Duwamish River
  • 15th century - construction of boulder walls along Fraser Canyon
  • 1971- contact by the Spanish during their charting of the Georgia Straight
  • 1810- coastal fur trade expands
  • 1810-1850- raided by northern tribes, Euclataws and Haida
  • 1833- Trade and contact increased significantly. Significant social and economic changes
  • 1839-1842 - missionaries come and have no success
  • 1840- churches divided territory among themselves according to the federal peace policy
  • 1855- Puget Sound war
  • 1850-1860 - traditional resources are less available
  • 1850-1854 - Douglas treaties signed by Coast Salish
  • 1880- White-Indian demographic shifts
  • 1885-Potlatch, a traditional Salish ceremony, is banned
  • 1960 Renaissance of tribal culture and national civil rights endangers civil action
  • 1970's - lots of federally recognized tribes get economic autonomy with tobacco, casino gambling, and fisheries


The Salish tribe is located in the Pacific Northwest, from the plateau to the Columbia Plateau in Canada and the United States. 50+ tribes were a part of the Salish before the invasion.
Salish tribe map.jpgSalish tribe map2.jpg


The Salish people spoke Salishan along with some Chinook Jargon. The Salish language is endangered, only a few elders know the language fluently. The tribes are trying to preserve the language by educating their young people and having them become fluent in the variations.

Social Organization and Government

Tribal system of hunting,fishing and harvesting.


In the summer men of the Salish tribe wear little to no clothes. They like to go either naked or wear a belt that has a free hanging cover either made of animal skins or cedar bark.
Women wore knee length skirts made out of wool, animal skins or bark. An everyday outfit for both men and women was to cut a head hole in animal skin and belt around the waist.
Buckskin was a rare material and only wore by the highest ranked hunters or for special occasions.

Goat wool was only worn by rich government officials and their families.
The Salish people bound their heads, from birth, with cedar bark to make their faces more flat and less like a dog. The men wore their hair to their shoulders and in a middle part. Women wore their hair long, in two side braids. Once girls had reached maturity they plucked their eyebrows.

Before European invasion the tribes stuck more to grasses and fur. After the Europeans came the Indians started wearing more wool

Diet and Food Sources


The Salish people had an abundance of food choices. Women gathered shellfish and clams, which were a good source of protein. They ate plants that were rich in vitamins like arrowhead or dandelion root. They ate lots of berries, raw, cooked, or roasted. The men hunted deer, elk, and woodland creatures for a big portion of their food. The men were also big fishers since the waters around them were so rich in salmon and other fish.
They used smoking as a preservation technique.


Salish Indians traveled during the summer and parts of fall and spring, during that time they camped and made
temporary shelters.

During the winter Salish Indians would live in shelters called sheds. These sheds consisted of four poles two taller in front and two shorter in back to help with drainage. The further apart you set the poles, the bigger the shelter could be, to hold more families.
The garbled house was less common but would be seen more in northern regions. The garbled house had four outside poles and one pole in the middle. The walls were made from broad planks, four
or five feet wide.

extended families would stay in the same shelter along with lots of tribe members.
Salish shed shelter.jpg
Salish shed type shelter


Before European contact the tribes would walk or use dugout canoes to get around. The canoes were hand made and came from cedar trees up to 60 feet in length, and aided the natives fishing.Once the Europeans introduced horses, that was what they used to get around fastest.
dugout canoe.jpg

Tools and Weapons

They didn't have metal, instead they created tools from shells, bones and stones. during this time the Europeans has guns and metal knifes and other tools.
tools and weapons.jpg

Economic Activities and Trade

Describe how the tribe created goods and acquired wealth (money and materials).
Through an economic lens, analyze how the tribe interacted with other tribes and with Europeans.
Analyze the economic nature of any social traditions that involve gifting.
Tribal system of hunting,fishing and gathering
Traded with Nez Perce
They would trade bitterroot and buckskin for the beautiful Nez Perce Indian hemp baskets which would be filled with camas.
The Salish people participated in the potlatch, a traditional ceremony in which people gave gifts to show status or thanks. It marked the period of birth or death in a family. The ceremony usually took place in the fall.

Religious Beliefs

Salmon and cedar were and are present in many Coast Salish ceremonies, traditions, beliefs, legends, and myths. The Salish believed in their spirits, and were strongly connected to the natural world.

The Salish creation story is summarized as follows;
They say that the creator put people on this earth but, there was too much evil, so he sent coyote and his brother fox to clear out the evil first. These two are responsible for creating geological formations and providing special skills. Coyote, being himself, leaves lots of evils in this world such as jealousy, hunger, greed, etc. The elders say that coyote and fox are waiting at the edge of the island, and when they come back it will be the end of that universe.
To read the whole story click here

Recreation and Games

The Salish Indians always set aside time especially for games and play time. Shinny,and hoop and dart were two favorite activities.
They had lots of celebrations and ceremonies, after wins or for successful hunts.

Works Cited\