Explorers hope to return home with useful information, trade goods, and resources. The coastal peoples of the Pacific Northwest set off on extended journeys for such purposes. Just as community history and wisdom were shared through the telling of stories, knowledge of swift currents, strong tides, whirlpools, shoals, mouths of rivers, friends and enemies was orally passed on and memorized to assist in a journey.
Movement was part of the annual routine for many coastal communities, who followed the seasons by alternating between summer and winter village sites. Exploration had revealed the best fishing, hunting, and berry picking grounds. Territorial expansion could take place through warring and strategic marriages, but the Pacific Northwest was not open to unchallenged claims to territory and resources.
The coastal peoples divided themselves into villages and related groups with common family lineage and language ties. These nations held territories with clear boundaries and title to resources. Just as an 18th century English captain would not expect to sail the French coast unchallenged, helping himself to food and water and setting up camp wherever he wanted, a Nuu-chah-nulth canoe would not paddle Coast Salish territory, hunting, trading, and travelling, without asking permission.