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Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian Houses
Longhouses at Museum of Civilization

The Native Indian people of the Northwest Pacific coast lived in large houses (sometimes referred to as longhouses) which sheltered multiple families at times. The various different Native Indian tribes had different styles of houses unique to their people.

The Museum of Civilization near Ottawa, Canada has a Grand Hall exhibit which displays several house fronts representing some of these different styles of houses. They were all made by Native Indian artisans with work initiated in British Columbia and final assembly at the museum.

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The Tsimshian people live in the areas north and adjacent to the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia. The Tsimshian style of house utilized massive cedar wood posts and beams. The wall boards were removable. High ranking Tsimshian had houses with broad steps on the main level inside leading down to central fire pits. The Tsimshian house front displayed at the Museum of Civilization represents a house that was near Port Simpson during the mid 1800s.

image Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian Houses Long House Longhouses tsimshian
Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian Tsimshian House

The Haida live on the Queen Charlotte Islands and the southern part of southeast Alaska. Their houses are similar to those of the Tsimshian. Houses featuring six beams and pitched roofs were very popular during the 1800s. The Haida houses also had vertical wall boards.

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Another interesting Northwest Pacific coast Native Indian house represented at the Museum of Civilization is from the Central Coast area of British Columbia stretching from northern Vancouver Island up to Kitimat where several tribes live including the Kwakwaka’wakw, Heiltsuk, Owikeno and Haisla people. The house façade displayed at the museum represents an actual house of a chief in Alert Bay during the 1890s to the 1930s. It is especially interesting because it features an animal totem pole built with a ceremonial entrance to the house at the bottom.

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The territory of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth people stretched from the northern part of west coast Vancouver Island down to western part of Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Nuu-Chah-Nulth houses could be as long as 30 metres or over 90 feet. The house front displayed at the museum represents a head chief’s house that stood during the 1800s near Port Alberni. This particular house featured 10 round holes which represented 10 moons below the front round entrance.

image Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian Houses Long House Longhouses nuu chah
Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian
Nuu-Chah-Nulth Longhouse

The territory from eastern Vancouver Island to the mainland opposite is Coast Salish. Much like the houses of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Coast Salish houses were also large with many of them over 30 metres (90 feet) in length and 12 metres (36 feet) in width. Heavy cedar logs held up massive roof beams. The walls of Coast Salish houses were wide cedar boards set between narrow poles parallel to the ground and tied together with twisted cedar branches. The Coast Salish house depicted at the Museum of Civilization was one that stood near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

image Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian Houses Long House Longhouses salish
Northwest Pacific Native Indian
Coast Salish Longhouse

As one can see, the Northwest Pacific coast Native Indian people were expert house builders using the abundant supply of lumber in the region. These houses were usually built quite close to the shores.

Today, Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian artists make some very stunning carvings. Just imagine having such a beautiful piece of artwork hanging in your home. See Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian art carvings or Northwest Pacific Coast Native Indian art prints at very affordable online prices available at Free Spirit Gallery.

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