Fishing & Hunting, Weaving & Carving:
Fishing has always been a major source of food for the
Klallam; some of these fishy foods include spring, humpback, silver and two
varieties of dog salmon, steelhead, halibut, ling cod, flounder, herring,
smelts, and candlefish. Fishing was a year-round activity for the Klallam
people, but different types of fish were caught in particular seasons. Some
fish were caught in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but much of the salmon fishing
was done in the Elwha River. However, restrictions on tribal fishing rights
during the first part of the 1900’s severely limited the Tribe’s access to
fish. The landmark 1974 Boldt decision reaffirmed tribal fishing rights and the
Tribe was able to fish freely once again without fear of arrest. However, the
hydroelectric dams on the Elwha River still limit tribal fishing because they
stop salmon from traveling upriver. To help supplement the fish in the few
miles of river below the Elwha Dam, the Tribe built the Elwha Fish Hatchery in
1975. Most Klallam villages were located on the shores of a sheltered harbor
where the people could easily fish and harvest clams; their dried horse clams
were well-known and a valuable trading commodity. Behind Klallam villages were
richly forested areas that gave them access to deer, elk, and other animals.
Elk and deer provided the Klallam not only with food, but with hides to make
garments, moccasins, bags, and drums and with bones and antlers to make into
tools. The Klallam people would also, on occasion, hunt whales if they spotted
one close to the shore of their village. Unlike the Makah tribe they did not go
on extended whale hunting expeditions.
Traditionally weaving would be done to make things used in
everyday life, such as, hats, clothes, baskets, and mats. The Klallam word for
basket is məhuy’. Klallam knew how to make water proof baskets; they did so by
using the roots of a cedar tree and weaving them tightly together, and then
adding beeswax or pitch to make them water proof. Weavers could do all sorts of
things with cedar once it was ready. Other materials like cattails, bear grass,
sweet grass, and plant roots were also used to make different kinds of baskets
and mats. These materials were dyed with berries, roots, and other plants to
give color to the art. Today, Klallam people still weave all kinds of things.
Cedar and other materials are still used for clothing, baskets, and mats. But,
for special occasions, many people make or choose to wear cedar headbands,
hats, vests, and bracelets.
The skill of shaping wood, bone and stone into figures and
shapes, both real and mythological, was developed and mastered over thousands
of years, and is called carving or in Klallam qəʔx̣əyu. Special objects like
entrance poles, canoes, house posts, and grave markers were carved very
carefully. Entrance poles were tall wooden poles that stood in front of the
houses of very important people, only the main long house of a village would
have one in front of their house. Entrance poles had animals carved to tell the
story of that particular family and had a door (entrance) at the very bottom.
House posts hold up the house and have the same figures as the entrance pole.
Totem poles were carved to tell stories and the few Klallam masks that were
made were for religious ceremonies. Bone
was used for knives, combs, hammers, harpoon points and needles of all sizes.
Stone was used mostly for arrowheads, bowls, fish hooks and knives.