History and Culture

Member Statistics

Kispiox Band is governed by an elected body consisting of nine Councillors and one Chief Councillor. The Kispiox Band Office staff consists of fifteen permanent full time employees, two machine operators, casual labourers and seasonal silviculture crews.




Members on reserve


Members off reserve


Estimated Age of the community


Full Time Employees

Our land

The lands of the Gitksan Nation include approximately 33,000 square kilometres in the northwest British Columbia . There are six villages within a radius of 75 kilometers in the Hazelton area. There is a distinctive dialect difference between the eastern Gitksan (Anspayaxw, Sikadok and Gitanmaax) and the western (Gitsegukla, Gitwangak and Gitanyow).

Our Culture

The Gitksan culture, tradition and language are the basis of who we are as Gitksan.  Presently, in the Kispiox Elementary School, children from Nursery to Grade 7 are being taught Gitksanimx. From the first day of Nursery school, the young children will be taught basic vocabulary.

Our Society

We are a matrilineal society and all members are born into their House Group and follow their mother. Our feast system is our governing body where the business is taken care of. Feasts are very much alive and practised withing the Gitksan territory. It is amazing to see the strength and support one receives from their family, their House Group and other clan members when they carry out the business after losing a loved one or to complete the business with a headstone/fence feast.


One of the main tourist attractions along the Skeena river is our Totem Poles.  There are approximately 24 Hereditary Poles that belong to different House Groups.

What do they mean?

There are approximately 24 totem poles that are privately owned by House Groups. Some date as far back as 1880 and as recent as 1995.
The much-admired Kispiox totem poles stand in the grass at the edge of the community where the Kispiox and Skeena Rivers meet.
Carved with Eagle, Raven, Frog, Killer Whale, Bear, Wolf and Human figures, they commemorate the House/Family history, signify ownership and offer insight into the heritage of the Gitksan people.

What do they symbolize?

The characteristic figures on totem poles are symbols comparable to family crests. They illustrate historical events that occured in a House’s past. If the historical event involved several Houses, those Houses may share the crest. The pole’s owners display their crests on the pole to establish and make public their claims to vested rights and privileges. They varied with each family; they were exclusive property and were guarded.
Each carved illustration on the poles serve a multiple purpose: besides commemorating the House/Family history and signifying ownership, they familiarize youth with their history – keeping part of our heritage alive.

Liligit (feasts)


Feasts are still practiced today in each of the six Gitksan communities and the events are held in a feast hall. They are held upon a death of a family member, the raising of a totem pole or the erection of a headstone and fence.


A feast is hosted by a House Group with the support of other members of the Clan. The guests are seated with the members of their House in accordance to their rank. They are fed a meal, given food to take home (so’o) as well as goods and xdaala (money).

What to expect?

All guests receive gifts in accordance to their rank for witnessing, confirming and remembering the business transactions that take place during the feast. Some guests are paid for special services they have previously rendered to the host.

As well as witnessing the business at hand the guests may confirm the boundaries of the House Group’s territory, the ownership of its crest or songs, the history of the House and family relationships and names.

Our Social Structure

The Gitksan kinship is matrilineal so everyone is born into his/her mother’s clan and house and can belong to one of three Gitksan clans in the eastern region – Gigeenix: Lax Gibuu (Wolf); Lax Seel or Ganada (Frog); Gisgaast (Fireweed); and one of four clans in the western region – Gyeets:  Lax Gibuu (Wolf), Ganada (Frog); Gisgaast (Fireweed) or Lax Skiik (Eagle).

The Gitksan Nation is comprised of a number of families called Wilp or House. They are called this because until the beginning of this century many members of each family would live in a large cedar plank dwellings. The Gitksan kinship is matrilineal so everyone is born into and belongs to the house of his or her mother. Even though the Gitksan no longer live in large extended family groups, House membership still strongly influences Gitksan life.

Each House is led by a Head Chief or Simoogit and several Sub-Chiefs, called K’aax or “wings” who act as his or her advisors. Each House is called the name of its Head Chief. The House is the land owning unit in Gitksan society with each owning one or more clearly defined territories. which usually use rivers, creeks or mountains, using the height of land as boundaries. As well, each House owns fishing sites within their territory. Other property owned exclusively by Houses includes their history (adaawk), crests, songs, dances, and names.

Each house owns a set of hereditary names or titles which are passed down from generation to generation within the family. Some of these names are several thousand years old. A family’s set of names include the Chief’s names (which are ranked), men’s and woman’s names, boy’s and girl’s names, as well as other specialized types of names such as halayat (medicine person’s name) or bitxw (divorce name).