The Tsimshian are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Their communities are mostly in coastal British Columbia and far southern Alaska, around Terrace and Prince Rupert in British Columbia, and Alaska’s Annette Islands. The Tsimshian people consist of approximately 10,000 members of seven First Nations (including the Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, and the “Allied Tribes” of the Lax Kw’Alaams; the Metlakatla, Kitkatla, Gitga’at at Hartley Bay, and Kitasoo at Klemtu). The Tsimshian are one of the largest First Nations peoples in northwest British Columbia. Some Tsimshian migrated to Annette Island, Alaska, where their descendants in the Metlakatla Indian Community number about 1450.
Similar to numerous Native American peoples, the Tsimshian have a matrilineal kinship system, with a societal structure based on a clan system, properly referred to as a moiety. Descent and property are figured through the maternal line. Early anthropologists and linguists had classified the Gitksan and Nishga as Tsimshian because of apparent linguistic affinities. The three were all referred to as “Coast Tsimshian,” even though some communities were not coastal. These three groups, however, identify as separate nations.
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