Animals -> Marine Invertebrates -> Sea Snails -> Periwinkles


Periwinkles are reported to have been consumed by west coast cultures including the Northern and Central Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth), Haihais, Bella Bella (Hieltsuk), Oowekeeno (Hieltsuk) and Aleut [1-5]. These observations may have involved the checkered periwinkle, which is abundant and widespread along the Pacific coast, though smaller in size than most commonly-consumed periwinkles. These periwinkles, known as LĂ„tckwins to the Nootka [4], were reported to by collected from particular areas with a prying stick or by hand [6, 7]. A description of a Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw) woman gathering and preparing winkles is given by Boas [8]. The woman collected a basket of winkles from a place called Knight Inlet, and continued off to a rocky beach where she proceeded to cook them in a kettle. After they had been boiled for four hours, the woman emptied the kettle, broke the winkle shells open with a stone, and ate the meat. Once she had finished, she discarded the shells.

Common periwinkles became an important food for the Wampanoag after the species was introduced from Europe to eastern North America in the mid-19th century. Common periwinkles were boiled, made into hash, or cooked with vegetables. The shells were also used to make jewelry and other decorative items [9].


1.         Clark DW: Pacific Eskimo: Historical Ethnography. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 5: Arctic. edn. Edited by Damas D. Washington: Smithsonian Institute; 1984: 189-191.

2.         McCartney AP: Prehistory of the Aleutian Region. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 5: Arctic. edn. Edited by Damas D. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1984: 119-135.

3.         Olsen SL: Animals in American Indian Life: An Overview. In: Stars Above, Earth Below American Indians and Nature. edn. Edited by Bol MC. Dublin: Roberts Rinehart Publishers; 1998: 95-118.

4.         Drucker P: The Northern and Central Nootkan tribes. Washington,D.C.: Government Printing Office; 1951.

5.         Hilton SF: Haihais, Bella Bella, and Oowekeeno. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast. edn. Edited by Suttles W. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1990: 312-316.

6.         Drucker P: Indians of the Northwest Coast. New York: The natural History Press; 1955.

7.         Moss ML: Shellfish, Gender, and Status on the Northwest Coast: Reconciling Archeological, Ethnographic, and Ethnohistorical Records of the Tlingit. American Anthropologist 1993, 95(3):631-652.

8.         Boas F: Ethnology of The Kwakiutl-Based on Data Collected By George Hunt (Part I), vol. Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology. Thirty-Fifth Annual Report. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office; 1921.

9.         Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of marine life by the Wampanoag Indians of Massachusetts. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1948, 38(8):257-265.

Periwinkles are members of a small sea snail family, with only a few hundred species divided into around 10 genera. In North America, periwinkles include the checkered periwinkle (Littorina scutulata) found along the Pacific coast and the common periwinkle (Littorina littorea) native to northeastern Atlantic and introduced along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America. The shell is spirally coiled in periwinkles.


Howes GJ, Chatfield JE: "Mollusks". In: The Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Edited by Dawes ACJ: Oxford University Press; 2007.


Images provided below were obtained from: Encyclopedia of Life. Available from
Checkered periwinkle
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Supplier: Wikimedia Commons
This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network
Common periwinkle
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Supplier: Biopix
This map is based on occurrence records available through the GBIF network