TRIBES

Tsimshian
LOCATION: Prince Rupert Harbour, Northern British Columbia and Southern Alaska.
POPULATION: Today there are approximately 10,000 Tsimshian people.
LANGUAGE: Tsimshian Language family is divided into four dialects; Northern Tsimshian (spoken along the lower Skeena River and the coast as far as Alaska); Southern Tsimshian (south of the Skeena River, on the coast); Gitksan (upper Skeena River); and Nisga'a (Nass River).
DESCRIPTION:

Living on the coast and by the rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean, the Tsimshian tribe depended on the seas natural resources. Salmon was an essential part of the tribe’s diet. The fish is highly regarded by the tribe and viewed as immortal beings who sacrificed themselves for the benefit of humans. Salmon was caught using spears and nets, and fences were built across rivers trapping those travelling upstream. Eulachon was also important and could be caught in large amounts in the Nass River on canoes using nets. Trading was essential, and so the rich supply of Eulachon was a main source of trade between tribes. Eulachon Oil was used as a condiment and as medicine.

The Tsimshian practised similar customs as surrounding tribes the Haida and Tlingit. During the winter, members of the Tsimshian tribe lived in red cedar wood houses with frontal totem poles. Totem poles were carved with animal representations, humans and mythical creatures displaying family crests and myths. These designs were repeated on clothing and household items. Inside the red cedar houses a large pit lined with wood formed the main living area with a fireplace in the centre. The potlatch ritual played an important part in Tsimshian society to mourn chiefs. Today, potlatches continue marking important events such as births, marriages and the rising of totem poles.