Ways of Life

Warfare

The history of the Nisg̱a’a involves many tales of warfare and conflict with surrounding tribes and nations of Northwest Coast peoples. Principal among the rivals of the Nisg̱a’a were the Gitx̱san of the Skeena River to the south, the Tsimshian of the coast to the immediate south of the Nass River, and the Haida of the islands of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).

While the Nisg̱a’a were known to make occasional raids into neighbouring territories, most frequently it was the neighbouring tribes who raided the Nisg̱a’a villages of the Nass River valley. Quite simply, the Nass River was known to be a centre of great material wealth. A principal source of the wealth was the lucrative Nisg̱a’a trade in oolichan grease. The grease of the oolichan fish was prized as a winter food source, and the Nisg̱a’a traded it over long distances through trail networks and water routes for other valuable goods of the day.

The intensity and frequency of coastal raids in particular once made the site of the modern village of Ging̱olx̱ unsafe for permanent settlement. Despite the abundance of seafood at its location at the mouth of the Nass, it was never permanently inhabited due to frequent attacks from the Haida and Tsimshian.

Legend states that the Nisg̱a’a finally decided to send a stern message to deter the raiders. Following a massacre of a Haida raiding group, the Nisg̱a’a took the scalps of the warriors and stuck them on tall wooden pikes at the mouth of the Nass River at the site of modern Ging̱olx̱. The village of Ging̱olx̱, “place of scalps”, takes its name from this act.

Warfare
Caption IMG2008-0688-0027-Dm.gif