Kitasoo/Xai'xais History

Thousands of Years of History Awaits You in the Home of the Spirit Bear

Klemtu is home to the Kitasoo/Xaixais people. Two distinct tribal organizations live here: the Kitasoo (Tsimshian) who were originally from Kitasu Bay and the Xai'xais of Kynoc Inlet. The Kitasoo/Xaixais people are the only permanent residents within the traditional territories of this First Nation.

The Tsimshian (Tsim-she-yan, meaning "People of the Skeena) of this part of BC's Pacifc West Coast lived in small villages that were scattered along the rivers, bays, and inlets of the central coast before the major arrival of Europeans. They had created a flourishing culture and maintained their way of life for thousands of years, developing elaborate social and poiltical hierarchical structures supported by highly organized and lavish ceremonies.

Chiefs at Bighouse OpeningNo central government existed within the Tsimshian culture. Each village and each clan house resolved its differences through traditional customs and practices; no organized gatherings for discussions of national policy making took place. Decisions were made at the clan, village or house level, affecting clan members of an individual village or house. The people had a highly stratified society, consisting of high-ranking individuals/families, commoners and slaves. Unlike present day marriages, unions were arranged by family members. Slaves were usually captives from war raids on other villages.

The Tsimshian First Nations consists of 14 tribes and each tribe has houses and four clans. This structure was based on a matrilineal clan system called Phratries, which consists of four crests: Killerwhale (Blackfish), Wolf, Raven and Eagle. All four groups had an exogamous (meaning they married outside of their own group), matrilineal clan system, which means that the children trace their lineage and names from their mother. This means the children inherit all rights through the mother, including the use of the clan fishing, hunting and gathering land, the right to use specific clan crests as designs on totem poles, houses, clothing, and ceremonial regalia.

Laxgeek (Eagle)   Laxgibu (Wolf)   Gaanhaanda (Raven)   Gispudwada (Killer Whale)
The Tsimshian people were not nomadic due to the abundance of natural and marine resources which were used as the basis of the traditional economy and sustenance.

  • Eulachon and salmon in the fresh water rivers
  • Halibut, seals, otters, whales and cod in the ocean
  • Shellfish and seaweed in the intertidal zones
  • Berries, lupine roots as well as hemlock, red cedar, fir and yew trees for building houses, making clothing and blankets, as well as eating utensils and Bentwood Boxes
The Tsimhian people travelled for trade and to move from winter and summer camps, but distances were relatively short, so much time was spent creating elaborate art.

Burial Box covered with rocks