Gitxsan

"GIT-ksan"

“Gitxsan” translates to “people of the river of mist,” meaning the Skeena River. In this historic hall, the Nisg̱a’a, Gitxsan and Tsimshian people are referred to together as “Tsimshian.” In the past, anthropologists categorized these three distinct nations as one people because they speak related languages.

Population: 8,389 (as of 2015)  Language: Gitsenimx, a language in the Tsimshianic language family

 

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Coming Home

Gitsegukla, British Columbia

“My mom grew up in Gitsegukla. I lived there with her for six months when I was about six years old. But we mainly lived in the city, in Vancouver. I returned to Gitsegukla when I was about 22 to take photographs on a scholarship. I was nervous to go. I felt like I’d be a bit of a stranger. It was really nice to see family, but also surreal. It took a while to feel part of things again.”

—George Lawson, photographer

Image credit: G. Lawson


They’re family and it’s great.

 

COMING HOME


 

 

 

FROM THE COLLECTIONS: Gitxsan labret

 

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Labret

High-ranking Northwest Coast women wore lip ornaments until the practice died out by 1900. A Gitxsan girl’s lower lip was pierced with an awl when she was seven years old, then a small wooden plug was inserted. She would insert larger labrets over her lifetime. One this large and valuable, inlaid with precious abalone shell, belonged to an older woman who had maintained her high status.

This labret is from Kispiox in Gitxsan territory in northern British Columbia, Canada.


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A Haida elder wears a labret in 1881. This type of adornment died out soon after because Euro-American missionaries discouraged it.

Image credit: AMNH Library 42290


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“Wearing a labret required you to be careful with your words because it would’ve been more difficult to talk. So you’d have to be a good communicator.”—Nika Collison (Jisgang), Haida

Image credit: AMNH/C. Chesek


 

 

VILLAGE REVIVAL


 

 

Boulders peak out of a rushing stream, forest and snow-capped mountains in the background.

Vital Waterway

Skeena River, British Columbia

The Skeena River runs through Tsimshian and Gitxsan territory and figures significantly in their living traditions. Steelhead trout, as well as five types of salmon, spawn in this unspoiled, 360-mile (580-km) long waterway.

Image credit: K. Douglas/AGE Fotostock


 

 

 

 

Image credit for lead photo: D. Gless