Salishan Family. A linguistic family
inhabiting the north portions of Washington, northern Idaho, western
Montana, a small strip of the north west coast of Oregon, and in Canada
the south east part of Vancouver Island from Thurlow Island to Sooke Bay,
and all the south mainland of British Columbia as far as Bute inlet and
Quesnelle Lake, with the exception of that portion held by the Kutenai,
although within the Kutenai area, at the Columbia lakes, is a small
settlement of Salish. An isolated division of the family, the Bellacoola,
had established itself farther north on Dean inlet, Burke channel, and
Bellacoola River. The name Salish was originally applied to a large tribe
in west Montana popularly known as Flatheads, thence it was finally
extended to cover all those speaking a similar language.
Although lexically distinct from one another, the
Salish, Chimakuan, and Wakashan languages belong to the same structural
type and have remote points of resemblance with Algonquian. Physically and
culturally the coast and interior Salish belong to different groups, the
former being affiliated to some extent with the other coast people to the
north, and the interior Salish resembling interior stocks in their own
If his own statements may be relied upon, Juan de Fuca
(1592) was probably the first white man to visit the country inhabited by
people of this family. After his time several Spanish navigators passed
along their coasts, but their position exposed them less frequently to
visits from vessels than that of the Nootka and tribes farther north.
Later British and American vessels came to trade, the most notable
expedition being that of Geo. Vancouver (1792-94), whose name became
attached to Vancouver Island. The first detailed information regarding the
Salishan tribes was obtained, however, from the account of the expedition
of Lewis and Clark (1804-06), and knowledge of them was extended by the
establishment of Astor's fort in 1811 at the mouth of the Columbia,
although the fort itself was not within Salish territory. From that time
until 1846 most of this region, known as the Oregon Territory, was a
subject of dispute between Great Britain and the United States, and it was
not until the after its settlement and California Gold fever had some what
subsided that settlers began to come into this region in numbers. On the
Canadian side employees of the Hudson's Bay Company were among the first
to enter the country. The establishment of a post at Victoria in 1843 was
one of the most momentous events to the Indians of the entire coast.
The coast Salish form the southern arm of the north
west Coast culture, which fades away southward from Bute inlet and Comox
(where it resembles that of the more highly developed Kwakiutl) to the
semi-Californian Tillamook and the Nestucca of Oregon. Unlike the more
northern Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian, descent is usually reckoned
through the father.
The Salish dwellings in the northern part of this area
are of the Nootka type, longer than those farther north, and containing
several families each with its own fire. They are also built in the
same way of heavy planks and beams. They resemble other coast tribes
in the important part fish and shellfish play in their diet, and in the
extent to which canoes are employed. The interior Salish depended now more
on hunting, but so many large salmon streams now through this country that
even they were more given to a fish diet than were the interior tribes
generally. The houses of the interior Salish of British Columbia differed
considerably from those on the coast. To construct holes were dug and
poles set up in conical form around their edges; the whole was covered
with poles on which was laid grass, and sometimes cedar hark, and over all
earth was thrown.
War, slavery, and the potlatch were regular
institutions on the coast. One of the most characteristic customs,
especially prevalent along the coasts of Washington and British Columbia,
was artificial head-flattening, but it did not obtain, curiously enough,
among the Indians now called Flatheads (see Salish).
Population (1909): Coast Salish in United States,
3,600; coast Salish in Canada, 4,874; total, 8,474. Interior Salish in
United States, 4,988; interior Salish in Canada, 5,390; total, 10,378.
Total Salish in United States, 8,366; total Salish in Canada, 10,264;
grand total, 18,630.
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of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations