Thousands of years ago, humans began to settle a narrow strip of land along the Pacific Coast. It ran from what is now southern Alaska down to southern Oregon. It was a land of plenty. Fish and sea mammals crowded the ocean.
In spring, salmon left their ocean homes to swim up streams, where they were easily caught. The nearby forests provided berries, meat, and edible roots. The mild, rainy climate created thick forests of evergreen trees, especially cedars. The people used these trees to make shelter, clothing, and transportation.
The social lives of the people who lived in this area were unlike those of other Native American groups. There were three big differences. First, it was the only culture in the Americas not influenced by the Maya and Aztec cultures of Central America. Second, the people formed a complex society without growing plants or making pottery. Third, food was easy to find. So these people had more time to create material goods. That’s why the people of the Northwest Coast were one of the few Native American groups to place importance on owning possessions.