Northwest Coast Native art is highly diverse, and encompasses many regional styles. Art forms include carved masks, totem poles, wall panels, and silver and gold jewelry.
The Potlatch is a Pacific Northwest Coast ceremony in which wealth is redistributed. Attendees are paid to witness the passing on of lands, resources, and cultural property. The Potlatch and the attending carving of totem poles and regalia such as masks were repressed by the Canadian federal government in an effort to assimilate indigenous peoples and claim their lands and resources.
Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved from large trees. They depict a family history. Model totem poles are decorative artworks. Masks of the Pacific Northwest Coast are known for their spiritual aspects as well as skillful carving and design. They are used in ceremonies, dances, and social events to express ideas about relationships with ancestors, spirits, animals, myths and the environment.
The Gitxsan people inhabiting the Skeena River region have a long history of woodcarving which includes bentwood boxes, feast bowls, rattles and headdresses. Haida, Kwak'waka'wakw, Coast Salish, and all the Native Nations of the Northwest Coast share the culture of the potlatch and formline carving. Each have their own unique style.
Northwest coast Native Art is created by the original inhabitants of this land and illustrates the spirit of that ancient occupation.