What was life like
2,000 years ago in what is now the Puget Sound region of Washington
All of the west coast tribes were considered
rich by the other Indian nations. Of all the coastal Indians, the
Tulalip, Swinomish, Lummi and Skagit tribes were considered the most
rich. These were the Indian tribes who lived in the Puget Sound area
of Washington State.
made these tribes so wealthy? It wasn't the discovery of
oil, although these early people did love to dunk their food in
whale oil to give it flavor. It wasn't the discovery of gold or
silver, although these early people were talented artists. They
would have made gorgeous jewelry from gold and silver (if they had
discovered gold or silver!) But, they did not use metal of any kind.
They did not have gold statues or iron pots or brass weapons. What
made them so rich and famous? Food! An abundance of food and safe,
sturdy shelter made them famous.
and Gatherers: These early people never
developed a system of agriculture. They did not need to. They built
their villages along the ocean shores, rivers, and streams, where
food was plentiful.
Two thousand years ago, the Puget Sound Indians
used to tell visiting tribes that sometimes the river was so packed
with salmon you could walk across it on the backs of fish without
getting your feet wet. These early people were famous for their
"tall tales" - but it was true that the waters were filled
with with salmon. Clams were thick on the beaches. The woods were
full of elk and deer and other animals. Wild blackberries and
raspberries and salmonberries and nuts were thick. There were
oysters, shrimp, turtles, eggs, and wild vegetables.
You can see why other Indian tribes, who
struggling to survive in other parts of the country, would consider
the Puget Sound Indians "rich"!
Trees: Added to the abundance of food
was the abundance of cedar trees. They used cedar trees to build
plank homes and sturdy canoes. Softened cedar bark was used to make
shoes, clothing, blankets, and toweling. Their art was incredible.
Using cedar, they carved everything from masks to totem poles to
Food: These early people were very clever.
They created a way to dry food so that it could be stored safely.
Once they could store food, they could relax a bit during the winter
months. That gave them time to develop a gracious lifestyle.
Each morning, these early people started their
day at dawn with a bath in the river. After their morning bath, they
went to work. Their first meal would not be until several hours
The women did chores on land, near the
longhouse. They wove blankets and baskets and mats. They dug for
clams. They collected berries. They pounded cedar bark, to soften
it, and to ready it to make clothing. They cleaned the family's
quarters in the longhouse. They scrubbed what they could and
replaced anything soiled that could not be scrubbed. They put the
morning meal on to cook and started to prepare food for the evening
meal. They were housewives, and good ones.
The men went fishing and hunting. They were
wonderful hunters. They used traps and clubs and arrows to catch
game. They set out baskets to catch crabs and fish. They stood on
the piers they had built and fished with baskets woven from
cattails, hung from the end of long cedar poles. They simply scooped