The Nisg̲a'a territory encompasses 200,000 hectares of the Nass Valley, reaching from the mouth of the K’alii Aksim Lisims (the Nass River) to the Hazelton Mountains.
Raising of Pts'aan (totem pole) in Nisga'a Village of Gitwinksihlkw. Photo by Gary Fiegehen, courtesy of Nisga'a Lisims Government.
The Nisga’a people have lived in the Nass Valley since time immemorial, thriving in an area rich with forests, inlets, and sleeping volcanoes.
Today there are four main village sites along the Nass River: Gingolx, Laxgalts’ap, Gitwinksihlkw, and Gitlaxt’aamiks.
Historically the Nass River supported many permanent Nisga’a settlements all along its route, stretching the length of the Northwest Coast and deep in to the interior. The bountiful resources of the Nisga’a territory allowed the Nisga’a people to develop one of the most unique and sophisticated cultures in North America.
Nisga’a legend tells us that as the Wil Ksi-Baxhl Mihl (volcano) erupted in the 1700s:
Gwaaxts’agat (a powerful supernatural being) suddenly emerged to block the lava’s flow. For days, Gwaaxts’agat blew on the lava with its great nose. Finally, the lava cooled and Gwaaxts’agat retreated into the mountain where it remains to this day.
Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a – the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed park, located within the Nisga’a territory, serves as a memorial to the thousands of Nisga’a who lost their lives and also as a reminder “of the importance of kwhlixhoosa’anskw (respect)—for both the natural world and the wisdom of the elders.”