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Salish, indigenous people of North America, also known as the Flathead, who in the early 19th cent. inhabited the Bitterroot River valley of W Montana. Their language belongs to the Salishan branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). These people never practiced head flattening, but the Columbia River tribes who shaped the front of the head to create a pointed appearance spoke of their neighbors, the Salish, as “flatheads” in contrast. After the introduction of the horse the Salish adopted a Plains culture, including the hunting of buffalo and the use of the tepee. They fought a series of wars with the Blackfoot over hunting land. The Jesuit missionary Pierre Jean De Smet, who in 1841 founded the mission of St. Mary in the Bitterroot valley among the Salish, persuaded the Blackfoot to make peace. By the Garfield Treaty (1872) the Salish agreed to move north to the valley of the Flathead lake and river. Many now live on the Flathead Reservation in Montana, which they share with a small group of Kootenai. In 1990 there were close to 5,000 Salish and over 2,000 people of mixed Salish and Kootenai descent in the United States.

There are several Coast Salish groups centered around Puget Sound. They numbered some 10,000 in 1990, including the Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Suquamish, Tulalip, and other groups. The city of Seattle is named after one of their great chiefs. The Native Americans of the Puget Sound area were traditionally part of the Northwest Coast cultural area (see under Natives, North American), speaking Salishan languages, living in large wooden houses, and practicing wood carving. Their diet was based on an abundant supply of salmon, shellfish, berries, and game until they were moved onto reservations by the treaties of Medicine Creek, Point Elliott, and others in the 1850s. Since then they have waged a continual battle in federal courts over fishing and shellfish rights in the area, one of the most productive in the country.


See O. W. Johnson, Flathead and Kootenay (1969); J. G. Jorgensen, Salish Language and Culture (1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a group of North American Indian tribes speaking related languages. Before the Europeans came to America, the Salish lived in what is now Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and southern British Columbia. Those along the coast engaged in fishing and hunted various marine animals, whereas those in the inland regions fished in rivers and streams and hunted game. The Salish tribes were divided into exogamous clans. Descent and inheritance were reckoned according to the father’s line. Patriarchal slavery, the potlatch custom, and secret religious societies existed among the Salish and a cult of personal guardian spirits was practiced.

Most of their lands having been seized by settlers, the Salish have lived since 1855 on reservations within the areas they formerly inhabited. Their population numbers approximately 40,000 (1970, estimate). They work for hire in the fishing and lumber industries and as hired laborers in agriculture; some engage in fishing.


Narody Ameriki, vol. 1. Moscow, 1959.
Averkieva, Iu. P. Razlozhenie rodovoi obshchiny iformirovanie ranneklas-sovykh otnoshenii v obshchestve indeitsev severo-zapadnogopoberezh’ia Severnoi Ameriki. Moscow, 1961.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Coast Salish artists have portrayed each of the animals in a stylized way.
The jury reviewed the design concepts with attention to artistic excellence, Coast Salish artistic style, ability to express the vessel names through artwork, ability to provide digital images for fabrication and ability to meet the project timeline, reads a press statement.
A special edition of Tok Blong Pasifik was conceived to explore the alternate biospheres of West Papua, Indonesia and the Coast Salish territories of Canada.
Along the province's southern coast, and in particular in the Vancouver area from the 1910s onwards, Indian Sports Days became important venues for Coast Salish (3) peoples such as the Squamish to (re)define perceived colonial spaces.
Thibeault, a member of the T'Sou-ke Nation (Coast Salish), and her teammates ended up finishing eighth in the eight-team tournament.
Mary Fontaine, a minister who is both Presbyterian and First Nations, together with three of her native elders, extended to all the welcome of the Coast Salish peoples.
Katie Gale: A Coast Salish Woman's Life on Oyster Bay.
The Coast Salish of British Columbia create button blankets made of wool and adorn them with mother-of-pearl buttons.
6 drew 35 participants to South Surrey, B.C., on unceded Coast Salish territory, land of Semiahmoo.
TYLER MCCREARY is a post-doctoral fellow at UBC and lives in Vancouver on unceded Coast Salish territory.