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date: 24 October 2019

Coast Salishlocked

  • Laurel Sercombe


Group of Native American tribes of the northwest coast. Coast Salish speakers occupy areas of western British Columbia and western Washington and a small section of northwestern Oregon. Of the 23 Salishan languages, 16 are spoken by these coastal groups (the remaining seven constitute the Interior Salish division). (See Flathead.) On the Canadian side of the border, Coast Salish languages and dialects spoken by First Nations groups include Comox, Sliammon, Pentlatch, Sechelt, Squamish, Halkomelem (including dialects spoken by the Musqueam, Stó:lō, Cowichan), and Northern Straits (including Sooke, Songhees, Saanich, and Semiahmoo). Coast Salish languages and dialects spoken by tribes in the United States include Northern Straits (Lummi and Samish), Klallam, Nooksack, Lushootseed (including Swinomish, Skagit, Sauk, Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Suquamish, Duwamish, Puyallup, Nisqually, and Squaxin), Twana (including Skokomish), Quinault, Upper and Lower Chehalis, and Cowlitz.

Traditional musical expression for the Coast Salish takes the form of songs, usually with rhythmic accompaniment. Instruments in use at the time of first contact and still used today include drums (both idiophones such as box drums and membranophones such as frame drums) and many types of rattles, but no melodic instruments. Songs may be received through spiritual practice, inherited, or composed by individuals and performed individually or by groups of singers; they are usually performed with drum(s) and/or rattle(s) and often with dancers, depending on the context and type of song. These songs have been integral to all kinds of ceremonial and social occasions. Coast Salish myth narratives and other stories include songs as well, often mirroring or parodying those performed in actual ceremonial or social occasions. Spiritual power is considered the basis of all songs, although not all songs are equally spiritually charged. In addition to those acquired spiritually and owned by an individual, some songs belong to families, some are considered public domain, and new songs are composed and performed for a variety of purposes....

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