Haisla First Nation
The Haisla people are Gitamaat and Henaksiala (or Gitlope), closely related neighbouring groups who speak the same language. The groups amalgamated
by 1949 at Kitamaat Village.
The Haisla First Nation is representative of first nation groups in the northern part of the Northwest Coast cultural area with a wood material culture - monumental sculpture to finely carved wood pieces – potlatch feasting and ritual, a food supply from the ocean and nearby rainforest, and hereditary chieftains. There are five clans - Beaver, Eagle, Raven, Killer Whale or Blackfish, and Fish with clan rights to particular territories and individual property ownership. The Haisla have 19 reserves, and traditional territory which is divided into 52 stewardship areas called wa’wais, watersheds with each associated with a personal clan name and stewardship passed from father to nephew.
Haisla traditional history comes from clan ownership of wa-wais or watershed areas and is tied to genealogies and stories passed from generation to generation. Nuyem – history and rule of the community – is the way of living through respect and care of those around you, traditional lands and their resources.
The word Xa’isla refers to the lower Kitimat River people, who had previously maintained settlements along the ocean channel and river estuary that is today called Douglas Channel and Kitimat River. The Gitamaat settled a mile above the mouth of the Kitimat River, in the 1870s. The Henaksiala people were from Misk’usa, at the mouth of the Kitlope River and other earlier settlements through the Kitlope watershed and Yamac’isa at the mouth of the Kemano River at the end of what is now known as Gardner Canal. Contact with Europeans began with explorer Captain George Vancouver’s visit to the area in 1793, and thereafter by traders, surveyors, prospectors, and settlers.