Tribal Boundaries in the Nass Watershed

Tribal Boundaries in the Nass Watershed

Tribal Boundaries in the Nass Watershed

Tribal Boundaries in the Nass Watershed


In this book, the Gitksan and Gitanyow present their response to the use of the treaty process by the Nisga'a to expand into Gitksan and Gitanyow territory on the upper Nass River and demonstrate the ownership of their territory according to their own legal system. They call upon the ancient oral history ("adaawk") and their intimate knowledge of the territory and its geographical features to establish, before witnesses, their title to lands in the upper Nass watershed.


In the postcontact era, in reaction to the influx of settlers and government efforts to establish reserves, Gitanyow leaders declared their ownership of their ancestral lands in a variety of forums. They stated their position to visiting surveyors, officials, and commissions, providing them in some cases with detailed hand-drawn maps, and they repeatedly petitioned government leaders to address the issue of their title.

Their assertion of Aboriginal title and the associated naming of territories constituted the Gitanyow's initial defence of their territory in response to the incursions of Euro-Canadians. in the process, the Gitanyow repeatedly detailed the extent of their territories and explained the nature of their system of land tenure. They also repeatedly made their position clear: their territorial ownership was not negotiable.

The documentary record of the Gitanyow is extraordinary for the consistency of the territories claimed, the unrelenting commitment to their system of land tenure, and the sophisticated fashioning of Euro-Canadian law to suit their ends, as, for example, in the registration of the bulk of their territory as a single "Kitwancool" trapline. Their cartographic legacy is also unparalleled. Their maps show an intimate knowledge of the geographic features in their territories, their territorial boundaries, and the locations of their fishing, camping, and hunting sites and their many ancient villages. in doing so, they also provide an invaluable historical record of ancestral lands and tribal boundaries in the Nass and Skeena watersheds.

As the provincial government moved to impose reserves, the Gitanyow also defended their territory on the ground. in 1927, several of their chiefs were jailed for their organized resistance to government surveyors. As early as 1910, when farmers attempted to settle in their territories, they were chased away, and beginning in the 1920s when loggers entered their territories, they frequently found the Gitanyow had barricaded their roads.

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