Mother of the
Wolf Children

The legend of the mother and wolf children describe the origin of the village on Sequim Bay.
She is carved with her digging stick and harvested clams, a delicacy, and important resource for the Tribe throughout history.
From the Dance Plaza House Post Carvings - Dale Faulstich, Lead Carver and Designer.
Assistant Carvers: Nathan Gilles and Ed Charles. Volunteer carvers: Harry Burlingone and Don Walsh.

S'Klallam Tribe

1033 Old Blyn Hwy
Sequim, WA 98382
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Jamestown S'Klallam History
Coastal Salish Canoes
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Men's Responsibilities
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Men's Responsibilities


Canoe Making, Fishing, Whaling, Hunting, & Woodworking

The role of Indian men in early history was that of fisher, hunter and protector. The skills required to meet these demands varied from region to region, that is from Coastal, to Puget Sound, to Plateau. The environment in each geographical area determined the approach to survival.
The basis for the economy of Indian tribes in Washington State was fish. The salmon, originating in the ocean, ran thickly in natural abundance in almost every river and stream. Fish formed the basis of nearly all aspects of tribal life. Fish were so plentiful they were used as a medium of trade in Coastal, Puget Sound and Plateau regions.
To Indian people, fishing was and is more than a livelihood. It is part of their culture and life. The right to fish and hunt was so important that during the 1850s treaty period it was specifically reserved for tribes and not transferred to the United States.

Canoe Making














Reference: Coast Salish Canoes,

Leslie Lincoln Cedar, Hilary Stewart



The Indian's canoe was essential for obtaining a living. Without it, he would have had no chance to trade, to visit or to go to war. People often think of an Indian canoe as being made of birchbark but the Northwest Coast Indians never saw such a canoe nor would it have been much use to them in the rough waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Their canoes were dug out of the trunks of cedars, sometimes fifty feet long and six or eight feet thick. The largest canoes could carry eight to ten thousand pounds of cargo or twenty to thirty people. Dugout canoes had various shapes and sizes. On the beach in front of an Indian village, you might see five or six different kinds of canoes drawn up, turned over and covered with mats to protect them from the sun. Those that the men were using might be floating in the cove, tied to a sharp, pointed paddle which was driven into the ground like a stake. They made the sharp-ended canoes for rough water and blunt ended or "shovel-nosed" ones for still water. The sharp-ended canoe cut through the water like a wedge or yacht; the blunt-ended one pushed the water away like a scow or ferryboat. The sharp-ended canoes were used by the whalers and ocean travelers who needed large, heavy craft, able to breast high waves.
One secret of the construction was the extra curved projections at bow and stern, carved from a separate piece of cedar and attached with pegs. These added pieces gave the canoe the effect of a living creature and Indians said "it was like a salmon, flat and wide in the middle, tapering and curving up at both ends." The bow end projected most, since this must spread the oncoming seas. In landing, when the breakers caught the canoe from behind, it was turned around and brought in stern first. The smaller canoes were used for river work and fishing. They were of the same general construction as the larger ones.
The blunt-ended canoe was for upriver people and adapted easily to river travel. It was also well suited for sliding over sandbars and being poled and pushed through little streams. It was shallow, round bottomed and looked much like a tray. The ends of this canoe were cut straight across and were carved or built out into little platforms where a man could stand to spear fish, looking straight down into the water, while another man paddled from the middle of the boat. White men called the blunt-ended canoe a "shovel nose."
Not every man could make a canoe. Generally, there were one or two men in each village who could make them better, and they were paid for their work. Perhaps they had spirit helpers. A man might save furs for years in order to visit that land of especially big cedars and order the craft he wanted. The canoe maker had to choose a log which was the right length and of even thickness all the way, without branches. For the big seagoing canoes, this meant a giant tree. The canoe was made from half or, perhaps a little more than half, the cedar log which was split lengthways. It was roughly shaped and hollowed out by splitting off slabs with wedges. The work was done by patient charring with fire and hacking off the charcoal with an adze.
The canoe maker measured entirely by eye until the dugout was nearing its final shape. Then he bored holes through the sides of the canoe at intervals and thrust a stick through to measure their thickness. Later, he plugged these holes with pieces of wood. The log had to be hollowed out, shaped and curved. The canoe maker accomplished this using cooking methods. By pouring water into the canoe until it was almost full and then adding hot stones, he was able to achieve the desired shape. He built a fire under the canoe at the same time; and, between the two, the wood was steamed until it was soft and pliable. Meanwhile, stout pieces of yew wood were cut just the width the canoe was to have at various points along its length. At the center it would be considerably wider than the original log, while it would taper at both ends. He wedged these yew sticks between the gunwhales, like seats, so that they kept the sides bulging. Then he dipped out the water and allowed the canoe to dry in this curved shape. Finally, the thwarts (seats across the canoe) were fastened tightly to the sides of the canoe by cedar withes (tough, supple twigs), passed through holes in thwart and gunwhale. Most canoes had extra sitting pieces pegged on at one or both ends. The inside of the canoe was usually colored red. The Indians made a sort of oil paint by mixing red ochre with fish or seal oil as modern paint is mixed with linseed oil. After being smoothed with sharkskin, the exterior was charred lightly with a cedar bark torch. This singed off roughness and left it black. Paddles were made from yew or maple wood and polished smooth with sharkskin. Some were pointed at the end so they could be dug or driven into the beach or bank to hold the canoe. Others were notched so as to fit over a rope when the canoe was being towed.


Fishing, primarily of salmon, was the main occupation of Coastal and Puget Sound Indians. There were various methods for harvesting fish, in both fresh and salt water: spearing fish in streams and rivers; using dip nets, bag nets and reef nets made by the women of the tribe; using wicker baskets placed in strategic locations in streams to catch the fish as they ascended; as well as traps, weirs and fences through which water flowed allowing for large quantities of fish to be taken at a time when the fish runs were at their peak. Weirs were built in the river to block the upstream passage of fish or to guide them into a trap. The lattice was put up for the fishing season and removed afterwards. The framework would remain in the river all year being repaired as necessary.


Some Coastal Indian tribes hunted whales. Their whaling canoes could carry eight to ten people, and each person had a special job to do. There was a watcher, several paddlers, two harpooners, and a "sewer," this was the person who sewed the mouth of the whale shut so it would not swallow water and sink. The whale hunt might last ten or more days. Because there was not much space in the canoe, the whalers could only carry a small amount of food and water so they had to prepare themselves ahead of time. During the weeks before the whale hunt they didn't eat much food or drink much water. To make their legs strong, they would tie tree branches to their legs and run through the water
The whalers also had to make all the tools they would need. Floats used to keep the whale from sinking were made from seal skins. These skins had to be filled with air when the whale was spotted. It took quite a while to make the harpoons, the paddles and even the large, strong canoe they would use for the hunt. Also, the hunters would appeal to their spirit helpers for a successful hunt. It was important to stay awake during the long days and nights on the open sea. They had to continue searching the ocean for a passing whale, and they also had to keep on course so they wouldn't get lost. To stay alert and ready, the hunters rubbed their bodies with stinging nettles. If they fell asleep, a whale might surprise them and upset their canoe.
When the hunters returned home with the entire whale in tow buoyed by the seal skin floats, the people from the village would paddle out in their canoes to help pull the whale to shore. As it was towed to the shore, the people would call out their greetings to the great whale. They would give thanks to the whale for visiting the people. Then there would be much to do to prepare the whale for all its many uses--for the food it supplied and the tools that could be made from its large body.


Both large and small game as well as several varieties of fowl were plentiful in the Coastal and Puget Sound regions. Deer and elk were the preferred game meats and were usually hunted in the same area and at the same time of year that huckleberries were picked. When eaten fresh, game meats were boiled, steam baked or roasted before the fire. These meats could also be smoked for later use.
Again, conservation was always practiced and only adult game were killed and only as much as was necessary for daily consumption or winter storage.

Art of Woodworking

Indian men of the Coast and Puget Sound used their art of woodworking for all sorts of purposes. The commonest were carving the serving trays which looked very much like a shovel nose canoe. Large ones for feasting might be three or four feet long and the individual ones a foot or less. Poor people's trays were roughly hollowed out but fine ones were polished and sometimes inlaid around the edge with shells or sea otter teeth. A good carver made bowls for fish oil out of yew, alderWooden ladle or maple knots instead of using clam shells. He also carved wooden ladles. Some ladles were used for serving from the tray and some were used like a cup from which they sipped their food.
It was necessary for Indian people to make all their own tools and utensils. Cutting, scraping and chipping stones were made from rock. Wedges, adzes and other carving tools were a combination of rock, bone or horn and wood with cedar bark twine and pitch used to connect the various pieces. Woods such as yew or vine maple were used for tools requiring more strength because cedar is very light weight. Tool handles, wedges, bows, paddles, and spoons were all carved out of a variety of woods. Digging sticks used for roots and clams were made from a hard wood, pointed and then a horn or antlers was added.

Tools for woodworking were wedges of wood, stone, bone or horn for splitting cedar, mauls or hammers of stone used to drive the wedge into the wood, and adzes with stone blades and wooden handles attached using wild cherry bark or cedar bark twine. Carving knives were made of sharpened shells set in wooden handles or of sharpened rock. Drills were sharp pointed pieces of stone attached to the ends of straight sticks. Wet sand, sandstone rocks and sand-coated string were used in carving and shaping stone, bone and horn.
The water bucket was a square box made out of cedar with a wooden handle run through holes near its rim. Some used the water bucket for stone boiling, but the more northern tribes made them with lids. They were made without nailing or sawing. These square, solid-looking buckets were made by steaming the soft wood, bending it into shape and then lacing it together. This meant boring a series of holes in the two pieces to be joined, then lacing them together with some form of stout cord, either rawhide or cedar rope. When the four sides of a box had been prepared in this way, the bottom was grooved and fitted in without lacing. These bentwood storage boxes, ranging in size from small household sizes to larger ones carried in canoes, were made in the same fashion. Some were elaborately designed and carved, as the cedar not only lent itself to steam bending, but was also most suitable for carving.
A man felt lucky if he obtained a huge mountain sheep horn from which he could make a spoon or a bowl by cutting out a section. For a bowl, the horn was steamed soft and cut into shape and figures were engraved on it using a beaver tooth. The ladle was a shallow, oval spoon, keeping the curve of the horn. Its short handle might be plain, cut into open work or even decorated with a little animal figure.




Other Photos/sketches from Daybreak Star United Indians of All Tribes Foundation article - 1993.  Do not reproduce without permission.




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