Archaeological Excavation

Tsimshian Society and Culture

Wealth and Rank
Men's Activities
Women's Activities
Gathering and Preserving
Basketry and Clothing

Tsimshian Villages

Tsimshian Society and Culture

Women's Activities

Basketry and Clothing

Basket - CD96-007-064 - S93-10760 Fragments of a cedar-bark basket used for collecting berries
Ca. A.D. 1
Lachane site, excavated 1973
(GbTo-33-c [2001866])

The use of cedar-bark fibre for clothing and baskets distinguishes the Tsimshian from the Haida and the Tlingit, who favoured spruce-root fibre. This characteristic also allows archaeologists to trace the occupancy of Prince Rupert Harbour village sites to Tsimshian populations dating back to at least the first millennium B.C.

Clothing Basketry


Dot Cedar Clothing

Cedar Bark - CD96-007-068 - S93-10773 Raw cedar bark, stripped from a tree in spring, folded and bound for later use
Collected by G.T. Emmons for Lord Bossom, ca. 1900

Before European cloth became readily available in the 1820s, everyday clothing was woven from cedar bark. Women removed only a small amount of bark from each tree. A bark shredder and pounder made the inner bark pliable (the outer bark was discarded). Cedar clothing was warm and waterproof, ideal wear for a damp climate.

Dot Ceremonial Clothing

Chilkat Blanket  - 
CD94-633-017 - S92-4374 Chilkat Blanket

Chilkat blankets, aprons, and leggings were woven from yellow cedar bark and mountain-goat wool. Men were responsible for the design, women for the weaving. Leather clothing made from animal skins and furs was sewn together with sinew and leather thongs.

With the introduction of European wool blankets, button-blanket clothing became popular. Button blankets are usually identified by a crest design and mother-of-pearl buttons. Contemporary Tsimshian people continue to wear this garment on ceremonial occasions.


Woman All women learned to weave cedar and spruce-root baskets, but those who were especially adept were excused from household chores to practise their craft.

Used for storing and transporting goods, baskets came in various sizes, both decorated and plain. Men carried fishing, hunting, and woodworking tools in baskets. Women used them for gathering wild fruits, berries, and other materials such as moss, shellfish, and seaweed.

Woven hats served as protection against the sun and rain. Ropes, belts, necklaces, and mats were also woven from cedar bark.

Basket - CD96-007-100 - S93-10839 Cedar-bark basket for collecting berries
Collected by Marius Barbeau, 1915; Fort Simpson