Tribes of Canada
Hydah Indians of Canada
Hudson Bay Territory
Free Genealogy Forms
Family Group Chart
British Isles Genealogy
FREE Web Site Hosting at
Tsimshian. A native term
meaning "people of Skeena River." Also called:
Kilat, by the Masset Haida.
Kilgat, by the Skidegate Haida.
Kwe´tEla, Heiltsuk Kwakiutl name.
Skeena Indians, an English translation of their own name.
Ts'otsqE´n, Tlingit name.
Connections. The Tsimshian are the largest of the three
divisions of the Chimmesyan linguistic stock, to which they have
given their name.
Location. On the lower course of Skeena River and the
neighboring parts of the Pacific Coast. (See also Alaska.)
Subdivisions and Villages
The following are at the same time tribal or band,
and town groups:
Kilutsai, near Metlakatla.
Kinagingeeg, near Metlakatla.
Kinuhtoiah, near Metlakatla.
Kishpachlaots, at Metlakatla.
Kitlani, near Metlakatla.
Kitsalthlal, between Nass and Skeena Rivers.
Kitunto, near the mouth of Skeena River.
Kitwilgioks, near the mouth of Skeena River.
Kitwilksheba, near Metlakatla and the mouth of Skeena River.
Kitzeesh, near Metlakatla.
These were the Tsimshian proper, but in a more extended sense the
name applies to the Kitzilas, who occupied two towns in
succession--Old Kitzilas just above the canyon of Skeena River, and
New Kitzilas just below, and Kitzimgaylum, on the north side of
Skeena River below the canyon. In a still more extended sense it
covered the Kitkahta, on Douglas Channel; Kitkatla, on Porcher
Island; and the Kittizoo, on the south side of Swindle Island,
northwest of Milbank Sound.
Modern towns are:
New Metlakatla, at Port Chester on Annette Island,
Old Metlakatla, 15 miles south of Port Simpson.
Port Essington, at the mouth of Skeena River.
Port Simpson, between Old Metlakatla and the mouth of Nass River.
History. Traditional and other evidence indicates that the
Tsimshian formerly lived inland and have pushed down to the Pacific
in relatively late times, probably displacing the Tlingit. Spanish
navigators reached the latitude of their coast in very early times
but it is questionable whether any actually touched there. In the
latter part of the eighteenth century English and American explorers
and traders met them and this contact became more intimate as time
went on. Later the Hudson's Bay Company's posts were established at
Fort Simpson in 1831 and at Fort Essington in 1835, and still later
their country was overrun by miners and prospectors, particularly
during the great Klondike rush. In 1857 Rev. William Duncan
established a mission of the Church of England at Metlakatla, but,
on account of differences with his superiors over the conduct of
this work, he removed to Annette Island, Alaska, in 1887 with the
greater part of the Indians under his charge and obtained the grant
of this island for his colony. A still closer contact between them
and the outside world resulted from the establishment of the
terminus of the Grand Trunk (now the Canadian National Railway)
among them at Prince Rupert.
Population. Mooney ( 1928) estimated that in 1780 there were
5,500 Indians belonging to the Chimmesyan linguistic stock of which
the Tsimshian were a part. In 1908 there were 1,840 Tsimshian,
including 465 in Alaska.
Connection in which they have become noted. The Indians of
this stock, including the Tsimshian, are noted for their beautiful
carvings, equaled if at all only by those of the neighboring Haida.
They and the Haida together occupy the very center of the remarkable
cultural area of the north Pacific coast, and their social and
ceremonial institutions have attracted particular attention. Their
language occupies a unique position among the tongues of the
The Indian Tribes of North of America, by
John Swanton, 1953