People of the Saltwater: An Ethnography of Git Lax M'oon

People of the Saltwater: An Ethnography of Git Lax M'oon

People of the Saltwater: An Ethnography of Git Lax M'oon

People of the Saltwater: An Ethnography of Git Lax M'oon


A 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

In People of the Saltwater, Charles R. Menzies explores the history of an ancient Tsimshian community, focusing on the people and their enduring place in the modern world. The Gitxaała Nation has called the rugged north coast of British Columbia home for millennia, proudly maintaining its territory and traditional way of life.

People of the Saltwater first outlines the social and political relations that constitute Gitxaała society. Although these traditionalist relations have undergone change, they have endured through colonialism and the emergence of the industrial capitalist economy. It is of fundamental importance to this society to link its past to its present in all spheres of life, from its understanding of its hereditary leaders to the continuance of its ancient ceremonies.

Menzies then turns to a discussion of an economy based on natural-resource extraction by examining fisheries and their central importance to the Gitxaałas' cultural roots. Not only do these fisheries support the Gitxaała Nation economically, they also serve as a source of distinct cultural identity. Menzies's firsthand account describes the group's place within cultural anthropology and the importance of its lifeways, traditions, and histories in nontraditional society today.


Git lax m’oon—people of the saltwater—that’s who we are. We live on the
edge, in the extreme. We are the people of the saltwater. That’s who we are.

Elmer moody, 2008

Git lax m’oon, people of the saltwater, also known as Gitxaała, are an ancient Indigenous people of the northwestern coast of North America. the oral history of Gitxaała reach back to the time when ice covered the landscape and strange beings lived alongside humans. From that time until the present Gitxaała have lived within our laxyuup (territory) without interruption. We have welcomed newcomers, repulsed invaders, and enjoyed the beautiful place that is our home.

Contemporary Lach Klan, the home village of Gitxaała, has been continuously occupied for millennia, over ten thousand years according to oral tradition, at least five thousand according to science. in the past there were many other Gitxaała villages throughout our laxyuup. However, the effects of colonialism, a significant population collapse caused by the spread of foreign diseases brought by late eighteenthcentury European travelers, led us to gather our people together at Lach Klan. Throughout our history Lach Klan has retained a special significance as a culturally important gathering place, even while Gitxaała lived spread throughout the laxyuup in many other villages.

This book tells one part of Gitxaała’s story. I make no claims to a definitive account. My telling is steeped in my own memories and experiences and rooted in interviews, conversations, and discussions with other Gitxaała people. I also draw upon a rich archival record that . . .

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