March Question of the Month – an irregular series

bnr_askaquestion The reference librarians at Seattle Public Library are pretty darn amazing. They don’t know everything, instead they know where to find everything. As part of an irregular series of posts we salute the talented and dedicated reference staff at your local library. Names and other identifying information have been removed from the questions we showcase. Got a stumper?
Click on Ask a Librarian. It’s what we do


I’m looking for information about how Northwest Coast tribes transported people—specifically, large groups of people—around the region. In other words, did they use any forms of group/mass transportation, either on land or on the water?   If there isn’t an easily available answer, do you know where I might start looking?  Thanks in advance for your help.

Thank you for using our Ask a Librarian service requesting information on how Northwest Coast tribes traveled.

The following quote is from the book, “Indians of Washington State” published in 1991 by the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Office (Call number: 979.70049 In2): page 62, Transportation Coastal and Puget Sound Region:
“Dense forests made inland travel difficult, but there were plenty of rivers and streams in this region; and the Indian people who lived there used these waterways like roads. Indian villages were always located near a stream or river, thus people from many different tribes traveled these watereways in dugout canoes, most of which were made out of cedar trees. These canoes were very important for hunting, fishing and traveling. Canoes were made in a variety of shapes and sizes depending upon what they would be used for. The blunt- or shovel-nosed canoe was adapted well to river travel or to cross lakes, while the large ocean-going canoes were designed for travel through the rough water and waves on the open ocean.”


Another title, “Peoples of the Sea Wind: the Native Americans of the Pacific coast “, by Vinson Brown and published in 1977 (Call number: 979.00497 B815P) also includes information on the use of canoes among the Northwest Coast tribes.

Atlas of the North American Indian“, byCarl Waldman, Checkmark Books, 2000 (Call number: R970.00497 W146A 2000), Transportation, p.62, has an entry for Dugout (Dugout Canoe). On p.63 there are illustrations plus an entry about the use of sails. These pages are attached to this e-mail as a pdf file.

Handbook of North American Indians“, volume 7, Northwest Coast, edited by Wayne Suttles, Smithsonian Institution, 1990, has an entry for Transport with a good description of Northwest use. This information is also attached as a pdf file.

We hope this information will be helpful. Let us know if you have additional questions.

~Library staff

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