Indigenous Culture on BC's West Coast
A culture and People that have resided on this land since time immemorial.
Our vision for our land and resources is based on the best definition of the term sustainable. To us this means that the wealth of forests, fish, wildlife and the complexity of all life will be here forever. It also means that we will be here forever. To remain here as Kitasoo Xai’xais People we need to protect our land, our ocean and our Culture.
By visiting Spirit Bear Lodge and learning about our history, our culture, and our traditional knowledge you become a part of our ‘forever’. Get informed on current conservation efforts and the stewardship of our Traditional Territory, a visit to Spirit Bear Lodge is so much more than spectacular wildlife.
Klemtu is home to the Kitasoo Xai’xais people, 2 distinct tribal organizations have come together here.
The Kitasoo Xai’xais are one of the fifteen Tsimshian nations that call the Great Bear Rainforest home. The Kitasoo People lived in villages that were scattered along the rivers, bays, and inlets of the outer central coast while the Xai’xais People settled in the large river systems on the mainland of the central coast. They were not nomadic due to the abundance of natural terrestrial and marine resources which were used as the basis of the traditional sustenance. The Tsimshian traveled for trade and to move relatively short distances between winter and summer camps.
Since time immemorial, we the peoples of the Kitasoo Xai’xais Band, situated in what is now called the Province of British Columbia, have been and remain the rightful owners, users and sovereign occupants of our tribal territories.
Our peoples have traditionally used, occupied and exercised jurisdiction over our tribal territories for thousands of years. We have never surrendered our tribal territories or jurisdiction through conquest, treaty or any other means to the British or its colonial governments.
The Kitasoo Xai’xais invite other people and governments to work with us to manage our Territory but seek no permission. Our right to act as stewards of our Traditional Territory comes from our aboriginal rights and title and from our deep connection to this land for thousands of years.
The Kitasoo Xai’xais have worked with governments and NGOs to protect over 50% of our Traditional Territory and created a “Protocol on the Environment”, which governs future use and conservation of all the lands and resources for generations to come. The Kitasoo Xai’xais First Nation Council and Hereditary Chiefs manage our Territory based on stewardship and sustainability. This approach has allowed the community of Klemtu to grow economically as well as ensure that future generations will benefit from the abundant natural resources, like our ancestors before us.
Language revitalization efforts have been underway in Klemtu for decades, beginning with development of the Xai’xais language curriculum at the Kitasoo Community School. In addition, since the early 1990s a major documentation effort has been made for Sgüüx̱s, a dialect of Southern Tsimshian, the language of the Kitasoo people.
The Kitasoo Xai’xais Language Revitalization project is steered by the Kitasoo Xai’xias Languages Working Group (KXLWG) under the guidance of the Kitasoo Band Council’s Resource Stewardship Department. Our group works together to: document, save, teach and revive Kitasoo Xai’xais Languages so we may preserve them for future generations and reincorporate them into daily life.
The language revitalization project in Klemtu is striving to restore knowledge, appreciation and use of Klemtu’s heritage languages, Xai’xais and Sgüüx̱s. Because there are virtually no remaining fluent speakers of Sgüüx̱s in Klemtu, there has been a concerted effort to document and preserve this language. Hundreds of hours of recordings were made of the last fluent Sgüüxs-speaking Elder in Klemtu, Violet Neasloss.
Violet passed in 2013 at the age of 99, leaving behind a legacy of dedication to protecting and preserving her cultural heritage. Without her efforts, we may have been too late to document this southern Tsimshian dialect spoken almost exclusively by the Kitasoo. Violet’s recordings have been systematically transcribed and digitized so they can be preserved forever. One of the major goals of the language revitalization project is to make these Sgüüx̱s resources available to the Klemtu community through a password protected online archive, CDs, curriculum and other learning materials.
Further work is needed to better document and preserve the Xai’xais Language. The KXLWG has helped to advance the existing Xai’xais curriculum at the Kitasoo Community School by increasing Elder involvement in instruction and lesson planning. However, there is still much work to be done to fully document the Xai’xais Language, which will help to further improve Xai’xais curriculum at the school. Nevertheless, the immersion opportunities created for the students by having in-house Elders available for class participation is just as important and effective at teaching language as is a strong curriculum. Another major goal of the project is to create a database of Xai’xais, much like the one developed for Sgüüx̱s, and make this resource available to the community through a password protected online archive, as well as other learning materials.