About Us

About Kitselas

 

Vision 

Kitselas First Nations is a financially self-sufficient and self-governing Nation that provides responsible leadership in all we do. 

Core Values 

  • We stand united, supporting each other unconditionally. 
  • We share and create knowledge, according to our cultural teachings, to build a stronger future for our people.
  • We uphold the highest level of professionalism incluidng being knowledgeable, kind, polite, solution-oriented and time conscious.
  • We role model integrity practicing honesty, fairness, respect, transparency and the healthy use of humour.
  • We draw our resillience from our commitment to one another, learning from the past, acting in the present while plannign for the future.
  • Kitselas traditional territory is located in Northwest British Columbia. Our reserves and territory surround the City of Terrace and the mighty Skeena River.

Kitselas is a progressive Nation. We are proud of our heritage and our achievements, both historic and contemporary.

Kitselas’ population is approximately 700 people. About half of our people live on the Kitselas reserve of Gitaus, a 15-minute drive east of Terrace. Others in the area live in Kulspai, a smaller reserve west of Terrace. The rest of our population is spread throughout Vancouver, Prince George, Prince Rupert and other places.

Gitselasu (Kitselas) means ‘people of the Canyon’ in the Tsimshian language of Sm’algyax.

The Kitselas Canyon, located in Gitaus, is the heart of the Kitselas nation. The Canyon is a stronghold of the Kitselas people, who once charged traders and travelers on the river a toll to pass through. The Canyon is now a National Historic Site of Canada and open to visitors. Four longhouses and several totem poles are onsite.

Our History

Archaeological and ethnographic evidence suggests people have occupied the Kitselas Canyon area for at least 5,000 years.

Gitselasu (Kitselas) means ‘people of the Canyon’ in the Tsimshian language of Sm’algyax. The Kitselas Canyon, located in Gitaus reserve, on the Skeena River, is the heart of the Kitselas nation. The Canyon is a stronghold of the Kitselas people, who once charged traders and travelers on the river a toll to pass through.

Kitselas thrived in the period before contact. Our society was healthy and strong, a rich culture with deep spiritual connection to the lands and resources. Despite challenges, our people are working together to build a future in which our Nation and our culture continues to thrive.

While the Canyon is home, Kitselas extensively uses the resources throughout the North Coast and the lower Nass River systems to sustain our economy.

View a PowerPoint presentation about Kitselas’ historic timeline, starting in the 1700s

 

 

Our Culture

Kitselas culture is multilayered. Our culture is in our language, our stories, our traditions, our dance, our art, our relations and much more.

Kitselas is one of 14 Tsimshian tribes in BC, seven of which are located in Northwest British Columbia.

The language of the Kitselas people is Sm’algyax, the language of the great Tsimshian Nation, of which Kitselas is part.

In Sm’algyax, Gitselasu (Kitselas) means the ‘people of the canyon’, and refers to the Kitselas Canyon, located in Gitaus reserve, on the Skeena River.

Tsimshian culture is grounded in the adawx (narratives that tell history). Adawx tell about the origins of the world from a Tsimshian perspective. Adawx are stories that have been passed on from generation to generation. They are defined as ‘true tellings’ or ‘sacred history.’ Read our stories below.

 

Everyone in the Tsimshian First Nation belongs to a clan or a sub-clan. Kitselas has four main clans:
• Gispudwada (Killerwhale)
• Laxgiboo (Wolf)
• Laxsgiik (Eagle)
• Ganhada (Raven)

Kitselas celebrates its elders and traditions. Many of our members still hunt and fish, and prepare and share meat and food as we did in the past.

Our Stories

Fsem-Y-How (The Settling of Tsunyow)

In the flat place on the west bank of the big canyon, Chief Neas Hiwas chose his camp site. Below them the waters of the Skeena raced through the rocky gorge.

Tsimsyan (The Beaver)

As told by Walter Wright to William Beynon in 1926. This story explains why the beaver crest belongs to the Eagle clan of the Gitselasu. It also explains why the people left the village of Gitaus and moved to Gitlaxdzawk and Gitsaex.

Long after the Gitrhawn (Gitxan or Salmon-Eater) clan in the Eagle phratry established itself and took the lead at Gitselas (Kitselas), it happened, one morning, that Gwaenrk did not get up as usual.

Gitxon of Gitlaxdzawks

This is the adaawak of Gitxon of Gitlaxdzawks told by Sim’oogit Gitxon in Port Essington in 1924, when he was interviewed by Marius Barbeau.

When the people were living all together at a Haida village, they owned a fishing pool where they would go to catch trout. One time, three young men fished trout in the pool.

Bear Mother

This story was told by Walter Wright to William Beynon in 1926. This story describes the migration of Nieshawax and Niesdaok from the upper Skeena River region. They left the area because they were decimated by mountain goats. The cultural property of this Killer Whale clan of Gitlaxdzawk is represented by the single fireweed pole of Nieshawax.
After the ancestors of the clan had been decimated because of their disrespect to the Mountain Goats, the survivors escaped down the river. Some of them settled down at the Gitselas (Kitselas) Canyon.

Contests of the Healing Shamans

As told by Da’gee (Harriet Hudson) and recorded in 1948-49 by William Beynon.

Among the Kitselas people, there was a great shaman who was known as Witaltal and he was always in contest with shamans from other places. Especially was he always competing with Nisatneats of the Ginaxangik.

The Origin of the Beaver Crest at Gitselasu

As told by Niis’Hawas (Walter Wright) Gisbutwuda of Gitselasu at the Canyon of Skeena River, and recorded by William Beynon.

Long after the Gitxon (Salmon-Eater) clan in the Eagle phratry established itself and took the lead at Gitselasu, it happened, one morning that Gwznrk did not get up as usual.

The Origin of Devils Club

As told by Mrs. Harriet Hudson and recorded by William Beynon in 1947.

Devil’s club has become not only a medicinal plant but also has purification powers used by the hunters. Many times hunters went out but returned empty-handed, because the animals were able to smell their scent and this made hunting very difficult.