This is the third book in the author's important series on North American Indian tribes. Indians of the Longhouse, the story of the Iroquois, and The Apache Indians are the first two in the series. Unlike the Iroquois and other Eastern tribes, the Northwest Coast Indians were not farmers. Since high mountains come down almost to the ocean in the Northwest, these Indians had no fields in which to grow corn and beans and squash. So their whole existence depended on the creatures of the sea. The men were fierce fighters in their wars with other tribes, but first of all they had to be skillful fishermen and hunters.
Salmon fishing was the most vital industry. During the months of the salmon run, enough fish had to be caught to last through the rest of the year. Everyone helped in the work -- the men and boys catching the salmon, and the women and children carrying on the long process of drying and smoking the fish.
These Indians had great respect for the animals they hunted. They believed that the salmon, sea otter, porpoise, whale, halibut, or herring was willing to be caught, so that people would have food, blubber, and skins. In return, the spirit of the animal must not be offended. Rites such as the First Salmon Ceremony were an important part of the tribal religion.
Miss Bleeker has the happy faculty of penetrating the heart of her subject. She takes her reader into the canoe from which a porpoise is harpooned; she lets him watch an Indian woman make fish stew in her wooden cooking box; she seats him at a ceremonial dinner with a strip of blubber wrapped around his own neck.
Because she is an anthropologist who has devoted years to the study of North American Indians, her book is as accurate as it is fascinating.
From the dust jacket
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