Gitxsan

D. Gless

"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

Self-portrait of George Lawson, photographer.
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
G. Lawson

A2-Lawson_quote

Coming Home

From the Collections: Gitxsan labret

Labret inlaid with rectangles of abalone shell.
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.

Village Revival

Boulders peak out of a rushing stream, forest and snow-capped mountains in the background.
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.
K. Douglas/AGE Fotostock