History & Culture

history page

Before time immemorial [ 3000 BC / the year that North-west Coast Culture began to develop; Source: Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia, North American Indian], the people of the river lived here in Northwestern British Columbia, as members of an elaborate and complex society having their own cultural traditions, language, territorial boundaries, and systems of government and law.

The most authentic history of Lisims ownership and occupation of the river and its’ approaches is, doubt-less, the living, oral tradition as it is remembered, ex-pressed, and handed down by historians and elders.

Land and Resource Management was traditionally conducted through a system of family-owned territories in which the use of, and access to natural resources was regulated by the Head of each family, or House. Some sixty houses held territories, and access by each user was guaranteed through complex kinship relations or mutual arrangements as determined and dictated by the unwritten body of laws and social customs that govern behavior – Ayuukhl Nisga’a [the law of the people]. Together, these family territories form adjacent blocks of land that comprises the territory.

Although by tradition, control over each House was uni-laterally exercised by the ‘owning family’, in the early years of this century the hereditary chiefs agreed that land was to be held in common ownership. Thus, the land itself is visualized as a ‘common bowl’ for every-one in the nation.

Lisims and its watershed – from glacial headwaters to Pacific estuary—provided the food, fur, tools, plants, medicine, timber and fuel that allowed the people to develop one of the most sophisticated cultures in North America.

Since the last Great Ice Age, they traveled, fished and settled along all 380 kilometers of the river and its tribu-taries.
The river supports all five species of Pacific salmon, the most important currency Lisims people have ever known. Rich salmon runs were harvested in a manner that allowed them to build their villages and evolve a far-flung trading empire that reached deep into the Interior and ranged up and down the coast.