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(kwä`kēo͞o'təl), group of closely related Native North Americans who inhabit N Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland of British Columbia, Canada. They, together with the Nootka, their southern neighbors, make up the Wakashan branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
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). Kwakiutl culture was typical of the Northwest Coast area (including the custom of potlatchpotlatch
, ceremonial feast of the natives of the NW coast of North America, entailing the public distribution of property. The host and his relatives lavishly distributed gifts to invited guests, who were expected to accept any gifts offered with the understanding that at a
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). The ethnographer Franz BoasBoas, Franz
, 1858–1942, German-American anthropologist, b. Minden, Germany, Ph.D. Univ. of Kiel, 1881. He joined an expedition to Baffin Island in 1883 and initiated his fieldwork with observations of the Central Eskimos.
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 produced a significant number of ethnographic studies on the Kwakiutl. Numbering c.15,000 before European contact, they are now reduced to around 4,000 and are mainly engaged in fishing and farming.


See F. Boas, Kwakiutl Ethnography, ed. by H. F. Codere (1966); R. P. Rohner and E. C. Rohner, The Kwakiutl (1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an Indian tribe in the province of British Columbia in Canada. Population, approximately 4, 500 (1967, estimate).

The Kwakiutl are bilingual; they speak their own language, which belongs to the Wakashan language group, and English. At the time of the arrival of the Europeans in the 18th century, there were approximately 25, 000 Kwakiutl. They engaged primarily in fishing; private property relations were beginning to develop, and hereditary patriarchal slavery existed among them. The Kwakiutl created a distinctive culture and art. At the present time, the Kwakiutl live on reservations; most of them work in the fishing and timber industries. They are Protestants, although some of their ancient beliefs and cults have also been preserved.


Narody Ameriki, vol. 1. Moscow, 1959.
Linguistic and Cultural Affiliations of Canadian Indian Bands. Ottawa, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Also, his interest for the tribes in British Columbia (among which the Kwakiutl tribe especially attracted him: he visited it in 1889 and 1894), and in general for the tribes from the North Pacific region of the American continent, was to be a special and permanent one throughout his life, being directly connected with the "historical" method.
Studying comparative religion, history, and philology, he earned a diploma with a thesis entitled "Religion and Social Ceremonies of the Kwakiutl Indians." This work reflects Beuchat's attraction to the brand of comparative sociology then flourishing at the university: a school of thought closely associated with the eminent theorist Emile Durkheim and his nephew and intellectual heir, Marcel Mauss.
Al leer en la introduccion, la metodologia cualitativa que sustento la investigacion, inmediatamente me remonto a las lecturas basicas de la antropologia, a los trabajos etnograficos de Malinowski sobre los Argonautas de Pacifico Occidental, Evans Pritchard con los nuer y los azande, Franz Boas con los estudios sobre los indios Kwakiutl en el norte de Vancouver (Canada), entre otros; donde el trabajo de campo es fundamental para conocer la cotidianeidad de estas culturas, a obtener la riqueza etnografica, producto de los saberes y conocimientos tradicionales y/o locales.
Caption: Large image: Framing for a longhouse in the Kwakiutl village of Memkumlis, Village Island, British Columbia, c.
Los objetos han circulado siempre en todas las epocas, tanto en los potlatch de los Kwakiutl de la costa Oeste de los Estados Unidos como en los intercambios matrimoniales, cargados de significado y emisarios de promesas por cumplir, asi como garantes de lealtades y lazos de union.
"The History of the Kwakiutl Potlatch." In Aldona Jonaitis, ed.
The authors cite everything from Easter Island statues to a Kwakiutl totem pole to a Siberian tale of a maid who takes a skull as her groom, to how Mary Shelley's Frankenstein prefigured Hesse's haunted bride.