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[Detail] Chilkat dancers, Alaska, 1895

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest provides the basis for creative Arts and Humanities projects. Users of the collection can examine folktales and crafts while also learning about Native-American cultures. 200 images of totem poles may be examined and provide the basis for an exercise exploring symbolism. By creating a museum exhibit, users can learn about the relationship between primary and secondary sources, while other materials can inspire creative writing projects. Using these materials appropriately requires sensitivity; refer to the "Using the Collection" (external link) section of the Special Presentation's introductory essay (external link).


The collection includes a number of different Indian folk tales compiled and published by the University of Washington, such as "Some tales of the southern Puget Sound Salish" by Arthur C. Ballard and "Klallam folk tales" by Erna Gunther. Many of the essays in the Special Presentation include Indian folklore such as creation stories and popular coyote tales associated with different cultural groups. For example, Jay Miller’s "Salmon, the Lifegiving Gift" (external link) contains three tales, including "Coyote Spreads Salmon Along The Columbia River." (external link) Search on folklore and mythology for additional myths and folktales.

  • What can you learn about the beliefs and values of a people from their myths and folktales?
  • Why do you think that animals are so often included in Native-American folklore?
  • Why do you think coyote stories are among the most popular folktales?
  • Why do you think that the authors of the Special Presentation essays included so many folk tales in these essays?
  • What purposes did folk tales serve in Native-American cultures? What purposes do stories serve in U.S. popular culture?
  • What is the difference between having a story told to you and having one read to you?