Nootka - Orientation

Identification. The Nootka are an American Indian group located mainly on Vancouver Island. The term nootka is not a native one, but seems to refer to Captain Cook's rendering of what he thought the native people were calling themselves or their territory. Nootka people are customarily divided into three groups known as the Northern, Central, and Southern Nootkan tribes. Today, the Nootka people as a group prefer to call themselves Westcoast People.

Location. Aboriginally, the Nootka lived on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, from Cape Cook in the north to Sheringham Point in the south and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Cape Flattery on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Today, some Nootkans still live on Westcoast reserves for native people, but many Nootkans have moved to Vancouver Island's urban areas to find employment. For many years, scholars at the Provincial Museum in Victoria, British Columbia, have been assisting local Nootkan groups in their effort to preserve native cultural and language traditions.

Demography. Aboriginally, there were approximately ten thousand Nootkans. Today, there are probably about five thousand.

Linguistic Affiliation. Nootka is the language of the Northern, Central, and Southern Nootkan tribes. Numerous geographic dialects correspond to the two hundred-mile or so cultural distribution of Nootkan people on Vancouver Island. The language of the Nitinat, a Southern Nootkan tribe, is sometimes, but not always, distinguished from Nootkan dialects as a separate language. The Makah are Nootkans living on the Olympic Peninsula at Neah Bay, Washington; they spoke a language separate from Nootka and Nitinat. Together, the languages Nootka, Nitinat, and Makah are called Nootkan; they are related to Kwakiutl, the Nootkans' Neighbors to the north, and belong to the Wakashan language famfly.

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