The Tsimshian (//; Sm'algyax: Ts’msyan) are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Tsimshian translates to Inside the Skeena River. Their communities are in British Columbia and Alaska, around Terrace and Prince Rupert and the southernmost corner of Alaska on Annette Island. There are approximately 10,000 Tsimshian. Their culture is matrilineal with a societal structure based on a clan system, properly referred to as a moiety. Early anthropologists and linguistics grouped Gitxsan and Nisga'a as Tsimshian because of linguistic affinities. Under this terminology they were referred to as Coast Tsimshian, even though some communities were not coastal. The three groups identify as separate nations. There are many other ways to spell the name, such as Tsimpshean, Tsimshean, Tsimpshian, and others, but this article will use the spelling "Tsimshian".
At one time the Tsimshian lived on the upper reaches of the Skeena River near present day Hazelton BC. It was after a series of disasters that befell the people, that a Prince from the leadership lead a migration to the coast, away from the cursed land and founded Kitkatla, which is today one the oldest continually inhabited communities on Earth. Following suit, other Chiefs migrated down the river and began to occupy all the lands of the lower Skeena valley. Over time a new dialect of the language developed and so too did the Tsimshian proper; but still sharing all the rights and customs of their upper river brothers the Gitksan.
In 1862 smallpox annihilated many of the Tsimshian population. Further epidemics ravaged their communities for many years until the late 1890s. There were at least three large scale outbreaks, in total one in four Tsimshian died. Lax Kw'alaams began burying the dead without ceremony, on Rose Island. Protestant English culture became the way Tsimshian began to lead their lives, including language, religion and culture from this time forward. In fact the Head Chiefs themselves were the ones to lead the assimilative process. It was not until the 1970s when Tsimshian culture began to return to the communities, appearing first in the school district.
In the 1880s the Anglican missionary William Duncan, with a group of Tsimshian, requested settlement on Annette Island from the U.S. government. After being approved, the group founded New Metlakatla in Alaska. William Duncan later requested the community gain reservation status. After approval, it became the only Native reservation in the state.
The New Metlakatla Tsimshian maintained their reservation status and holdings exclusive of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. They do not have an associated Native Corporation, although Tsimshian in Alaska may be shareholders of the Sealaska Corporation.
The Annette Island reservation was the only location in Alaska allowed to maintain fish traps, which were otherwise banned when Alaska became a state in 1959. The traps are used to provide food for people living on the reservation. Legally the community was required to use the traps at least once every three years or lose the right permanently. This practice was stopped early in the 2000s and they are no longer allowed.
In British Columbia, the governments of Canada engaged in the British Columbia Treaty Process with First Nation bands in the province. The Tsimshian First Nations pursued negotiations until late 2005 when the Tsimshian Tribal Council, the organization for representing each of the First Nations in treaty negotiations, dissolved amid legal and political turmoil.
Like all Northwest Coastal peoples, they thrived on the abundant sea life, especially salmon. The Tsimshian were a seafaring people, like the Haida. A staple for many years, the salmon continues to be at the center of their nutrition, despite large-scale commercial fishing. This abundant food source enabled the Tsimshian to live in permanent towns.
They lived in large longhouses, made from cedar house posts and panels. These were very large, and usually housed an entire extended family. Cultural taboos related to prohibiting women and men eating improper foods during and after childbirth. The marriage ceremony was an extremely formal affair, involving several prolonged and sequential ceremonies.
Tsimshian religion centered around the "Lord of Heaven", who aided people in times of need by sending supernatural servants to earth to aid them. The Tsimshian believed that charity and purification of the body (either by cleanliness or fasting) was the route to the afterlife.
As with all Northwest Coastal peoples, the Tsimshian engage in the potlatch, which they refer to as the yaawk, or feast. Today in Tsimshian culture, the potlatch is held at gatherings to honor deaths, burials, and succession to name-titles.
The Tsimshian live on in their art, their culture and their language, which is making a comeback. Like other coastal peoples, the Tsimshian fashioned most of their goods out of Western red cedar, particularly from its bark. It could be fashioned into tools, clothing, roofing, armor, building materials and canoe skins. They used cedar in their Chilkat weaving, which they are credited with inventing. The Tsimshian competed with the Tlingit, Haida, the Athapaskan groups in the north and east, and the Wakashan groups in the south.
The Tsimshian nation (meaning the Coast Tsimshian) in British Columbia consists of fourteen tribes:
- the Gitdidzu or Kitasoo (who live at Klemtu, B.C.)
- the Gitga'at (Hartley Bay, B.C.)
- the Gitxaala or Kitkatla (Kitkatla, B.C.)
- the Gitsumkalum (Kitsumkalum, B.C.)
- the Gits'ilaasü or Kitselas (Kitselas, B.C.)
- The allied tribes of Lax kw'alaams including Metlakatla
The Tsimshian clans are the
Treaty process 
The Tsimshian wanted to preserve their villages and fishing sites on the Skeena and Nass Rivers as early as 1879. They were not able to begin negotiating a treaty with the Canadian government until July 1983. A decade later, fourteen bands united to negotiate under the collective name of the Tsimshian Tribal Council. A framework agreement was signed in 1997, and the Tsimshian nation continues to negotiate with the BC Treaty Commission to reach an Agreement-in-Principle.
The Tsimshian speak a Tsimshianic language, referred to by linguists as "Coast Tsimshian" and by Tsimshians as Sm'algyax, which means "real or true tongue." It has differing dialects from the North in Taquan to the south in Klemtu. Tsimshian also speak the same language as the Gitxsan and the Nisga’a, yet the dialect is further differentiated than the regional Tsimshian variations. Very few speakers remain today in Canada and Alaska. Some linguists classify Tsimshianic languages as a member of the theoretical Penutian language group.
Notable Tsimshian people 
- Don G. Wesley, Hereditary Chief, Gisputwada, Gitwilgyots.
- Jeff Morris Speaker Pro Tem and Representative Washington State House of Representatives
- Charles Dudoward, Hereditary Chief of Ginaxangiik, artist, painter, merchant
- Betty Sampson, Gitando, artist, weaver, painter
- Frederick Alexcee, artist
- William Beynon, Gitlaan and ethnographer
- Rev. William Soloman White, Gitlaan
- George William Jeffrey activist
- Heber Clifton, hereditary chief of the Gitga'ata and community leader
- Marcia Crosby, art historian
- Alfred Dudoward, hereditary chief of the Gitando, and leader of the Port Simpson Methodist Movement. co-founder of the Native Brotherhood
- Pauline Dudoward, Gitnadoix, Teacher, and language teacher, pioneered the resurgence of the language and culture in the 1970s. Wife of head chief of the Lax Kw'alaams.
- Verna Helin, Ginaxangiik, also Teacher, and language teacher, pioneered the resurgence of the language and culture in the 1970s. Wife of a chief of Lax Kw'alaams.
- Benjamin Haldane, pioneering photographer from Metlakatla village
- Bill Helin, artist
- Calvin Helin, Ginaxangiik, lawyer, businessman and author
- William Jeffrey, Gitwilgyoats, hereditary chief, activist, carver
- Paul Legaic, hereditary chief of the Gispaxlo'ots and trader. The first Police Chief of New Metlakatla.
- "Old" Legaic, hereditary chief of the Gispaxlo'ots, uncle of Paul Legaic. Old Legaic was the most influential of all the Legaics'
- Joshua Tsibasaa, Chief of Kitkatla, the last of the great Tsibasaa line, and father of Paul Legaic, and brother in law to Old Legaic.
- Rev. Edward Marsden, clergyman
- Charles Menzies (anthropologist)
- Odille Morison, translator and art collector
- Rev. William Henry Pierce, missionary and memoirist
- Peter Simpson, Native Americans rights activist
- Henry W. Tate, Gispakloats, oral historian, tribal head man
- Roy Henry Vickers, artist
- Willy White, Gitwilgyoats, artist, chilkat weaver, Gitwilgyoats
- Arthur Wellington Clah, from the house of Tamks of the Gispaxlo'ots. Worked as a translator in Fort Simpson, the first to teach Father Duncan the sm`algyax lannguage, also a detailed diarist
- Walter Wright, hereditary chief of the Gits'ilaasü (Kitselas) and oral historian
- Shannon Thunderbird, Singer, Songwriter, Speaker, Author/Arts Educator, Recording artist
- Edward E. Bryant, artist
- Eric G. Cook, hereditary chief Gispwudwada, descendant of Eli Gordon (*needing verification from a written source)
- Ira C. Booth, Metlakatla, Alaska, Tsimshian Historian, Chief Judge, Builder, Submitted to Lax Kw'Alaams Tsimshian Research
- Russell Gamble Sr., Kitkatla, Chief Hale (successor to Tsibasaa), long standing community leader in Kitkatla and Prince Rupert.
- Roger Lang Native Americans rights activist
- Linda Benson Kusumoto Metlakatla, Alaska, Winner of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES.ORG) 2012 Award for Professional Executive Excellence, representing the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) of the U.S. Navy
- David Albert Boxley Sr. Northwest Coast Artist, Tsimshian Totem Pole and Mask Carver, Git-Hoan Tsimshian Dance Leader, Tsimshian Arts and Language Teacher
- David R. Boxley Jr. Northwest Coast Artist, Tsimshian Totem Pole and Mask Carver, Git-Hoan Tsimshian Dance
Anthropologists and other scholars who have worked with the Tsimshian 
- Margaret (Sequin) Anderson
- Marius Barbeau
- William Beynon
- Franz Boas
- Caroline F. Butler
- Philip Drucker
- Wilson Duff
- Viola Garfield
- Marjorie Halpin
- Susan Marsden
- Charles Menzies
- James McDonald
- Jay Miller
- Chris Roth
Missionaries who worked among the Tsimshian 
- William Henry Collison
- Thomas Crosby, Methodist
- William Duncan, Anglican/independent
- Edward Marsden, Presbyterian
- Bishop William Ridley, Anglican
- Robert Tomlinson, Anglican
- Joseph Burton
- David H. Pieplow
See also 
- Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pg. 396 n. 29
- Shearer, Cheryl. Understanding Northwest Coast Art. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2000: 28 ISBN 0-295-97973-9.
- Kitsumkalum and the Tsimshian Treaty Process Kitsumkalum Treaty Office
- Tsimshian First Nations - BC Treaty Commission
- Barbeau, Marius (1950) Totem Poles. 2 vols. (Anthropology Series 30, National Museum of Canada Bulletin 119.) Ottawa: National Museum of Canada.
- Boas, Franz, "Tsimshian Mythology", in Thirty-First Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1909–1910, pp. 29–1037. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1916.
- Garfield, Viola, "Tsimshian Clan and Society", University of Washington Publications in Anthropology, vol. 7, no. 3 (1939), pp. 167–340.
- Garfield, Viola E., and Paul S. Wingert, The Tsimshian Indians and Their Arts, Seattle: Washington, University of Washington Press, 1951, 1966.
- Halpin, Marjorie M., and Margaret Seguin, "Tsimshian Peoples: Southern Tsimshian, Coast Tsimshian, Nishga, and Gitksan", In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast, edited by Wayne Suttles. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1990, pp. 267–284.
- McDonald, James A. (2003) People of the Robin: The Tsimshian of Kitsumkalum, CCI Press.
- Miller, Jay, Tsimshian Culture: A Light through the Ages, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
- Miller, Jay, and Carol Eastman, eds., The Tsimshian and Their Neighbors of the North Pacific Coast, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1984.
- Neylan, Susan, The Heavens Are Changing: Nineteenth-Century Protestant Missions and Tsimshian Christianity, Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003.
- Seguin, Margaret, Interpretive Contexts for Traditional and Current Coast Tsimshian Feasts. Ottawa, ON: National Museums of Canada, 1985.
- Seguin, Marget, ed., The Tsimshian: Images of the Past, Views for the Present. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 1984.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Tsimshian|
- The Canadian Museum of Civilization - Tsimshian Prehistory
- Map of Northwest Coast First Nations (including Tsimshian)
- Tsimshian Text List of Tsimshian Text by Boaz, F.