Tsimshian CultureThe Tsimshian are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast located in British Columbia, Canada, and Alaska, United States around Terrace and Prince Rupert and in the southernmost corner of Alaska on Annette Island. There are approximately 10,000 Tsimshian. Their culture is matrilineal with a societal structure based on a clan system, properly referred to as a moiety. The Tsimshian people have four clans: Laxsgiik (Eagle Clan), Gispwudwada (Killer Whale Clan), Ganhada (Raven Clan), and Laxgibuu (Wolf Clan). Each clan has a number of matrilineal houses that further divide the phratries. Early anthropologists and linguists grouped Gitxsan and Nisga'a as Tsimshian because of linguistic affinities. Under this terminology they were referred to as Coast Tsimshian, even though some communities were not coastal. The three groups identify as separate nations. The Coast Tsimshian in British Columbia consists of fourteen tribes:
- the Gitdidzu or Kitasoo (who live at Klemtu, B.C.)
- the Gitga'at (Hartley Bay, B.C.)
- the Gitxaala or Kitkatla (Kitkatla, B.C.)
- the Gitsumkalum (Kitsumkalum, B.C.)
- the Gits'ilaasü or Kitselas (Kitselas, B.C.)
- The allied tribes of Lax Kw'alaams (Port Simpson) including Metlakatla
At one time the Tsimshian lived on the upper reaches of the Skeena River near present-day Hazelton BC. After a series of disasters befell the people, a prince led a migration away from the cursed land to the coast, where they founded Kitkatla, reputed to be one of the oldest continually inhabited communities on Earth.
The Laxgibuu or Laxgyibuu is the name for the Wolf Clan (phratry) in the language of the Tsimshian nation of British Columbia, Canada, and southeast Alaska. It is considered the same as identically named clans among the neighboring Gitksan and Nisga’a nations.
The Gispwudwada or Gisbutwada is the name for the Killer Whale clan (phratry) in the language of the Tsimshian nation of British Columbia, Canada, and southeast Alaska. The chief crests of the Gispwudwada are the Killerwhale (a.k.a. orca) (‘neexł in Tsimshian) and Grizzly Bear (midiik).