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For 10, years the Nisqually Tribe lived in relative peace and prosperity in its aboriginal homeland of about 2 million acres near the present-day towns of Olympia, Tenino, and Dupont, and extending to Mount Rainier.


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Archaeologists believe that the ancestors of today's Native Americans came to North America from Siberia, entering the Puget Sound region as the glaciers of the last ice age receded. Sources: A Time of Gathering, ed. Other related languages in the Salish family were spoken over a large part of the Northwest Coast and in some areas east of the Cascade Mountains. Ceremonies and Traditions The most important uses of the big cedar houses happened after everyone had returned -- after the moon approximately November called Sicalwas shee-chal-wass "putting paddles away.

During the warm months, individuals and groups came and went from the villages, traveling to gather particular resources at their optimum times.

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Most houses in the Puget Sound area had roofs with a single gentle slope. Despite the effects of new diseases, religions, mores, and technologies introduced by explorers and traders, this traditional culture was largely intact as the first permanent Euro-American settlers began to arrive in the mid-nineteenth century.

Native American traditions hold that the ancestors of the NisquallySuquamish, Snoqualmieand others were created and placed here at the end of a distant Myth Time, when the earth was prepared for human beings by a powerful supernatural being called dukibel, Xode, or Snoqualm, the Changer. Traditional villages were made up of one or more large, rectangular houses with roofs and walls of split cedar boards covering massive post and beam frames carved from cedar logs. One such regional leader, si?

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If a listener thought carefully and applied the teachings of the syayahub, she or he would grow to deserve an honored family name. These large dwellings had shelves for beds of cattail mats and blankets of wool. Roof boards were moved aside to make smoke holes where needed.

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Guests were lavishly fed and given gifts according to their wealth and status, agreeing by their presence to be witnesses to the work. With the treaties of and began a time of enforced change, adaptation, and struggle which continues today. They evolved complex cultural, social, and economic structures, which the invasion of non-Native settlers in the mids almost erased, but which continue today as the tribes struggle for their survival, respect, and renewal.

Some Puget Sound customs resemble potlatches in their hospitality and use of masks and totems, but the term itself does not occur in local speech. By eitherthe original citizens of what is now Western Washington gained their identity by developing a way of life closely fitted to the resources of the maritime and river valley Northwest.

It was into this complex society of interrelated villages and families, of resources managed with a light hand, and of economies suited to the products of environment and trade that the first Europeans came into contact with in the late eighteenth century.

During the annual runs of the five species of ocean-going salmon native to this area, every able person turned out to help. Tribes south of Vancouver Island did not traditionally carve totem poles, paint des on their house fronts, or use the bold black and red system of artwork called formline de.

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Everyone present could benefit from this sharing of tradition and spiritual power. Shellfish were harvested on beaches and mud flats. It is from the names of these villages and their contiguous waters that the modern names of tribes and reservations came. Hunting expeditions pursued elk, deer, seals, bear, ducks, and other prey. The Art of Village Life Traditional villages were made up of one or more large, rectangular houses with roofs and walls of split cedar boards covering massive post and beam frames carved from cedar logs.

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A Puget Sound village of years ago would have been impressive, but not as colorful for an arriving visitor as those of the Haida or Tlingit to the north. Friends and family would help each dancer by singing along with the songs they recognized, and were themselves helped in their turn. The most important uses of the big cedar houses happened after everyone had returned -- after the moon approximately November called Sicalwas shee-chal-wass "putting paddles away.

Potlatch rituals and gatherings allowed participants to secure their rights to particular heraldic, titular, and artistic devices.

Strips of cedar bark were harvested from huge standing trees in the spring, when it could be pulled away easily for later use in clothing and baskets. All tribes from present-day Olympia to Anacortes, from the Cascade crest to the Kitsap Peninsula originally spoke one or another dialect of the Puget Sound Salish language, known to its speakers as Lushootseed or Whulshootseed. Even in the mids, following devastating waves of smallpox, tuberculosis, and other introduced diseases, every river drainage was home to hundreds if not thousands of indigenous people, and every favorable stretch of saltwater coast held a village of one or more extended families.

Related Topics Exploration Northwest Indians. Within a few weeks, a large part of a village's annual food supply had to be caught, cleaned, smoked or sun-dried, and brought back to the houses to be stored for winter.

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Through the oral literature of the syayhub, given as short vignettes, epics, or cycles of stories, the culture's wisest members could pass on information about the origin of the world and its inhabitants, about ancient monsters, natural phenomena, and present day species, and about culture and the effects of right and wrong behavior. In summer the mountain passes could be easily crossed for trading with friends and relatives to the east, and loaded canoes traveled between rivers and salt water villages.

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Ruby and John A. Note: This article was updated on January 14, Origins Archaeologists believe that the ancestors of today's Native Americans came to North America from Siberia, entering the Puget Sound region as the glaciers of the last ice age receded. Substantial archeological evidence of continuing human habitation in the area from 12, years ago indicates that the present tribes of Puget Sound have lived here at least that long, and some discoveries suggest that people were living in the region several thousand years before that.

Healing ceremonies also required the community's help to provide singers and witnesses.

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If a village did not possess a separate structure for ceremonial use, one of the large dwelling houses or al? A Time of Gathering, ed. Early censuses of Native American communities are inexact -- information gatherers had little knowledge of the seasonal rounds that moved whole populations within their territories -- but conservative estimates state that tens of thousands of people lived in the Puget Sound country in ancient times.

These gatherings were also the best times for other cultural "work.

Major gatherings and events would occur from time to time throughout the winter, but every evening one or more of the elders would provide the experience that gave Puget Sound Native American culture its surest continuity -- the telling of syayahub syah-yah-hobe or legends for the education of young people and enjoyment of adults. Skins extended down each long wall and a row of cooking fires occupied the center of the floor. The Muckleshoot Reservation takes its name from a place "where they can see all over," and includes the Ilalkoamish, Stuckamish, Skopamish and other villages on the Green and White rivers.

Huckleberries were gathered in the high country when they were ripe and ready to pound into cakes for drying. Root foods including bracken fern and camas were dug on prairies kept open by burning.

Living Lightly on the Land and Sea During the warm months, individuals and groups came and went from the villages, traveling to gather particular resources at their optimum times. Each house was home to an extended family or to groups related by marriage, under the leadership of an individual with enough wealth and accomplishment to be accepted as leader for a house, a village, or a region.

For example Suquamish are the "people on the clear salt water"; Duwamish are "inside or river people"; and the Snoqualmie are "people of Moon the Transformer" in the valley where legends say the Transformer was brought to earth as a baby. The houses were also workshops where fishing and hunting gear was constructed and mended, where canoe carvers worked on the beach just outside, and where weavers and basket makers created beautiful clothing, utensils, and artworks from cedar roots, colored bark and grasses, the wool of mountain goats, and the fur of dogs.

United by Language All tribes from present-day Olympia to Anacortes, from the Cascade crest to the Kitsap Peninsula originally spoke one or another dialect of the Puget Sound Salish language, known to its speakers as Lushootseed or Whulshootseed. It is important to note that on the coast, Salish is the name of a group of languages, not a tribe.