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The Pacific Northwest has been occupied by a diverse array of Indigenous American peoples for millennia, beginning with Paleo-Native Americans who explored and colonized the area roughly 15,000 years before Europeans arrived. The Pacific Coast is seen by a growing number of scholars as a major migration route for late Pleistocene peoples moving from northeast Asia into the Americas. Archaeological evidence for these earliest Native Americans is sketchy—in part because heavy glaciation, flooding, and post-glacial sea level rise have radically changed the landscape—but fluted Clovis-like points found in the region were probably left by Paleoindians at least 13,000 years ago. Even earlier evidence for human occupation dating back as much as 14,500 years ago is emerging from Paisley Caves in central Oregon. With a history of human occupation spanning many millennia, and the incredible richness of Pacific Northwest fisheries (salmon, etc.), it is not surprising that the tribes who occupied the area historically were some of the most complex hunter-gatherer-fishers in history. They lived in large villages or towns, built plank houses and large canoes, and had sophisticated artistic and technological traditions. In British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, for instance, maritime tribes like the Tlingit and Haida erected the large and elaborately carved totem poles that are iconic of Pacific Northwest artistic traditions. Throughout the area, thousands of descendants of these proud Pacific Northwest tribes still live and many of their cultural traditions continue to be practiced.
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