Save our Northwest languages


Population of Fluent speakers:


A dictionary


Language structure


Musqueam Translation


Coast Salish



The language families of the Northwest Coast Culture Area are the following: Athapascan (of the Na- Dene language phylum); Chimakuan (of undetermined phylum affiliation); Chinookian (of the Penutian phylum); Kalapuyan (of the Penutian phylum); Kusan (of the Penutian phylum); Salishan (of undetermined phylum affiliation); Wakashan (of undetermined phylum affiliation); and Yakonan (of the Penutian phylum).

northwestOther Northwest Coast peoples spoke language isolates of both the Na-Dene and Penutian phyla. These various language groups were not segregated geographically but were interspersed. Sorting out and memorizing tribal locations and language connections is extremely difficult in the densely populated Northwest Coast Culture Area.

Athapascan-speaking tribes classified as Northwest Coast Indians include the Chastacosta, Chetco, Clatskanie, Coquille, Dakubetede, Kwalhioqua, Taltushtuntude, Tututni, and UMPQUA. Chimakuan-speaking tribes include Chimakum and QUILEUTE. Chinookianspeaking tribes include Cathlamet, Cathlapotle, Chilluckittequaw, CHINOOK, Clackamas, Clatsop, Clowwewalla, Multo-mah, Skilloot, Wasco, and Watlala. Kalapuyan-speaking tribes include the Ahantchuyuk, Atfalati, Chelamela, Chepenafa, KALAPUYA, Luckiamute, Santiam, Yamel, and Yoncalla. Kusan-speaking tribes include the COOS and Miluk. Salishan-speaking tribes include the BELLA COOLA, Chehalis, Clallam, Comox, COWICHAN, Cowlitz, DUWAMISH, Lumni, Muckleshoot, Nanaimo, NISQUALLY, Nooksack, Puntlatch, PUYALLUP, Quaitso, QUINAULT, Sahehwamish, Samish, Seechelt, Semiahmoo, Siletz, Skagit, Skykomish, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Songish, Squamish, SQUAXON, Stalo, Suquamish, Swallah, Swinomish, Tillamook, and Twana. Wakashan-speaking tribes include the KWAKIUTL, MAKAH, and NOOTKA. Yakonan-speaking tribes include the Alsea, Kuitsh, Siuslaw, and YAQUINA. Tribes speaking isolates of the Na-Dene phylum include the HAIDA and TLINGIT. Tribes speaking isolates of the Penutian phylum include the TAKELMA (along with the Latgawa) and TSIMSHIAN.




Each main group had their own language, although some groups had a language which was similar to others. The main groups were divided due to having the same language family.


The Northwest Coast people have the most diverse languages of any First Peoples group in Canada. It is estimated that there are nineteen distinct languages spoken by the people. However, if the comparable languages are grouped together then the languages spoken in the area can be divided into five main language groups (for convenience sake), and they are:

  • Haida
  • Tlingit
  • Tsimshian - Nishga (Nisga'a) and Gitksan
  • Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) - Haisla, Heiltsuk, and Kwakwakw'wakw (Kwakiutl)
  • Salishan (Nuxalk and Coast Salish)







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