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Northwest Coast Indians

Identifier: Film Collection no. 98

Scope and Contents

The story of the Northwest Coast Indians and the loss of their culture is the subject examined. Harry Tschopik, AMNH ethnologist, discusses the recent disappearance of the Coast Indians' culture as a result of an obsession with a tribal institution called potlatch. A ceremony in which tribal members try to outdo each other by giving away their most prized possessions, this practice eventually undermined their economic and traditional value system. Some of the artifacts, such as carvings, masks and totem poles, are brought into the television studio for this program. A shadow play illustrates the potlatch ceremony. The consuming passion for potlatch eventually led tribesmen to give away or kill slaves taken during raids. The practice was outlawed by the Canadian Government in 1903. As the fishing industry moved into the area, the general economic values were severely disrupted. Tschopik discusses the present Indian community and his findings that they do not show an interest in the old culture. Uncredited film material showing Indians carving masks and totem poles, harvesting food, fishing, and dancing is also presented.


  • 1955


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Not available through inter-library loan. Contact AMNH Library Special Collections for terms of access.


1 Film Reel (30 minutes) : sound, black and white ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (30 minutes)) : sound, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy

Other Finding Aids

Finding aid: script.


Original format: 16mm kinescope.


Originally aired Mar. 13, 1955 as part of the CBS/AMNH Adventure television series.



Charles Collingwood, host; Mel Ferber, director; Robert Northshield, producer; Jac Venza and Shelby Gordon, assistant producers; Frank de Felitta, script editor and writer; Joan Woodward, associate director; Grover Cole, production design; Jerome Bender, supervisor of film; Al Mifelow, program assistant; Dee Chandler, program coordinator; Bob Breton, stage manager.

Northwest Coast Indians, 1955
Iris Lee
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
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