GITGA'AT SOCIETY


The Gitga'at are members of the Tsimshian cultural group which is a matrilineal society. Clans affiliation, crests, names, and resource gathering areas are inherited from the mother's side of the family.

Gitga’at society is organized by Waap (House Group). A Waap would live together in a longhouse (made out of cedar). Each Waap has a sm’oygit (Chief) as well as ownership and stewardship responsibilities over particular lands, waters and resources.

All members of a Waap belong to the same Pte'ex (Clan), which is much like a large extended family. There are four clans in Tsimshian society: Gispudwada (Blackfish or Killerwhale), Laxsgiik (Eagle) Ganhada (Raven) and Laxgibuu (Wolf).

At the time of European contact, the Gitga'at had 13 or more Waap: 2 Gispudwada, 2 Laxsgiik, 6 Ganhada, and 3 Laxgibuu. Today the community has Gispudwada, Laxsgiik and Ganhada House Groups. There are no longer any Laxgibuu houses. There are some Laxgibuu members who have become a part of the community through marriage.

Sm'oygit Wahmodmx is the hereditary chief of the Gitga'at. The House of Wahmodmx belongs to the Gispudwada clan.

Gitga'at means "People of the Cane." The name refers to an adawx (sacred history) which describes how the chief established a new settlement at the place where two rivers met. This is today's Lax Galtsap (Old Town), which was the site of the Gitga'at winter village at the time of European contact. It is also the location of the one of the world's largest collection of petroglyphs.

The adawx of some House Groups trace their origins to the local area. Others tell of migrations into the Territory. The history of the House of Wahmodmx, the hereditary chief of the Gitga'at, is part of a great migration down the Skeena River from the land of Temlaham. Thus this house is related to some other Gispudwada houses who share the same history. These adawx are passed down through House Groups in accordance with the laws of the community.

   
 
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