Archaeological Excavation

Tsimshian Society and Culture

Wealth and Rank
Men's Activities
Women's Activities

Tsimshian Villages

Tsimshian Society and Culture

Men's Activities


Dot To Respect the Animals

From time immemorial, a pact has existed between hunters and the animals that become their food. The witnessed histories (adawk) taught that the hunter must show respect to the animals by singing a dirge song to them after their death. Weapons for hunting land and sea mammals, as well as birds were carefully designed to bring death cleanly and quickly.

Dot The Mountain Goats of Temlaham

Mountain Goat Horn - 
CD95-762-066 - S93-9130 Mountain goat horn core; traded along the north coast of British Columbia over 2,000 years ago
Lachane site, excavated 1973

In ancient times, a young goat was captured by a hunter on Stikyadin Mountain (on the upper Skeena River). The boys in the hunter's village teased it remorselessly. Soon after, a messenger appeared inviting the chiefs to a feast in a village up the mountain. They were welcomed by a chief wearing a one-horned mountain goat headdress and entertained with dances that made the house tremble. Suddenly, after the dancers covered every corner of the floor, the house plunged down the mountain, killing all the chiefs. The desolate survivors of the landslide searched for a new village and eventually reached the Prince Rupert Harbour.

The Hunter Hunting Sea Mammals Hunting Land Mammals Hunting Birds

The Hunter

Hunter In the interior, hunters wore a fur cloak and hat during winter. On the coast, they wore a long cape of shredded cedar bark to repel the rain and provide warmth.

Hunting Sea Mammals

Hunting sea otters - 
CD94-631-028 - 74-11390 This picture shows a man using a bow and arrow to hunt sea otters.

Sea otters were the most heavily hunted sea mammal, but seals, sea lions and porpoises were also taken. Whales were not hunted by the Tsimshian, but the carcasses were salvaged when washed ashore.

Hunting Land Mammals

Chief Guxsan - 
CD94-631-030 - 68771 Chief Guxsan from Gitsegyukla wearing winter hunting clothing, ca. 1880.

Of all the animals that were hunted, deer were by far the most important as a source of food and of skins for clothing. Mountain goat, caribou, porcupine, beaver, groundhog, lynx and rabbit were also hunted.

CD94-632-002 - 101578 Meats were usually dried on the hunting ground, then packed home by people and dogs.

The animals that were most highly prized for their furs were bear, marten, ermine, fox, wolf, mink, coyote, otter and weasel.

Hunting Birds

The birds taken for food were grouse, goose, duck, ptarmigan and swan. Bird bones were used for such items as drinking tubes (used in puberty rites for young women), whistles, and beads.