Dr Jago Cooper explores the extraordinary and resilient culture of the American Northwest, revealing one the most inspiring stories in human history.
1,400 miles of rugged, windswept and rocky coastline in what is now the Alaskan panhandle, British Columbia and Washington state have been home to hundreds of distinct communities for over 10,000 years. Theirs is the longest continuing culture to be found anywhere in the Americas. They mastered a tough environment to create unique and complex communities that have redefined how human societies develop. They produced art infused with meaning that ranks alongside any other major civilisation on Earth. And they were very nearly wiped out – by foreign disease, oppression and theft of their lands. But a deep connection to the environment lies at the heart of their endurance, and – unlike many indigenous cultures annihilated following European contact – their culture sustains and has much to offer the rest of the world today.
Part 1: Arrival
Jago sees how a complex society developed without agriculture. The answer lies in the extraordinary way in which the people understood and mastered their environment, which in turn is reflected in their identity and social structures. He reveals the hidden significance in totem poles, canoes and intricate textiles, arguing that the peoples of the Northwest Coast achieved the highest levels of cultural achievement.
Part 2: Survival
Jago reveals how a cultural tradition that began over 10,000 years ago managed to survive against the odds. Following European contact, the indigenous peoples of what is now southeast Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state suffered disease, theft of their land and oppression. But Jago argues that northwest coast culture has an extraordinary resilience. Its connection to the land has been developed over thousands of years, which meant that it was able to adapt and transform when faced with threats and disruption. These qualities make it one of the longest continuous cultures in the Americas.