Selected features from the Northwest Coast Hall
The ancestral lands of the Nisg̲a’a are in and around the Nass River on the northern coast of British Columbia. The Nisg̲a’a, Tsimshian, and Gitxsan are neighbors along the Skeena and Nass Rivers. These Nations share many traditions, and their languages are closely related.
Language learning is a lifelong journey in Nisg̲a’a communities, taught to babies and preschoolers in Head Start Programs, children in local schools, and adults at the Nisg̲a’a university-college, Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisg̲a’a Institute. The language has an impressive number of fluent speakers—60 alone in the village of Gitwinksihlkw, a center of Nisg̲a’a teaching and learning.
Aam wilaa wilina? | How are you doing?
Aam wilaa wiliy̓. | I am doing fine
T'ooyaḵsiy̓ n̓iin! | Thank you!
Credit: First Voices, a program of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. Recorded by: Nisg̲a’a teens Garth Munroe, Wilps Ksdiyaawak (a Nisg̲a’a Wolf House) and Sterling Tait, Wilps Ksim Xsaan (a Nisg̲a’a Raven House). Posted here with permission of Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisg̲a’a Institute.
In Nisg̲a’a, Gitxsan, and Tsimshian society, both women and men can become Chiefs. To prepare for this and other leadership roles, young people from high-ranking families spend years in rigorous training. They must learn the spiritual history and beliefs of their cultures and how these are expressed and affirmed in both formal ceremonies and daily life. When ready, an apprentice attains halayt, a form of supernatural power, through an initiation ceremony.
Halayt training is lifelong and includes extensive and detailed recollections of Nisg̲a’a history and Wilp, or House, history, particularly for those in the line of succession for Sigidimn̓aḵ | House Matriarchs and Simgigat | House Head Chiefs.
Maaksgum-k’utk’unukws Amhalayt | White Owl Frontlet
Click on the 3D model below for a closer look.
Only people of high social rank could wear these elaborate head pieces, which rest on the forehead and are sometimes trimmed with ermine pelts. Frontlets represent family crests, and tell the history of family lineage.
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