In the mid-nineteenth century, an alliance of Coast Salish groups engaged in a maritime canoe battle against the Kwakwaka'wakw Lekwiltok at Maple Bay on Vancouver Island in the Pacific Northwest Coast. This study reflects on the multivocality of twenty-one Coast Salish accounts of the historic battle to consider how independent groups recount a period of broad alliance and unification. These oral narratives commemorate this historic event as a moment of political solidarity among the Coast Salish, who are commonly conceived as organized at the scale of the household, while revealing persistent tensions between alliance and autonomy. Moreover, the stories of the battle and its aftermath provide insights into Coast Salish protocols for enacting justice and resolving conflict. This article aims to demonstrate the utility of oral histories for contributing anthropological insights into the historical and ongoing cultural dynamics of Coast Salish sociopolitical organization, showing how these decentralized communities, anchored in the primacy of local households, could be mobilized into broadscale regional coalitions.

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