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Northwest Coast Indian people who live along the shores of Vancouver Island, B.C., Can., and the mainland opposite. They speak a Wakashan language and call themselves Kwakwaka'wakw, meaning those who speak Kwakwala. Traditionally, the Kwakiutl subsisted mainly by fishing and had a technology based largely on woodworking. Their society was stratified by rank, determined primarily by inheritance. The potlatch was elaborately developed and was often combined with dances and songs dramatizing ancestral experiences with supernatural beings. They continue to be known for their highly stylized art, which includes totem poles and striking masks. Early 21st-century population estimates indicated approximately 700 individuals of Kwakiutl descent.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Kwakiutl, visit Britannica.com.