Nestled along the banks of the Skeena River in northwestern British Columbia sits Kitselas Canyon – a National Historic Site of Canada that has been an important place to the Ts’msyen people for more than 6,000 years.
It’s soaring rock outcroppings, rising high above the Skeena River, made this location a strategic site to control trade between the coast and the interior.
Kitselas Canyon was home to up to six ancestral Gitselasu (Kitselas) villages, including the villages of Gitseax and Gitlaxdzawk, a fortified site, which made it unique compared to other Indigenous villages along the north coast. These two villages were occupied up until the 1870s.
Historic trade route
In the 19th century, the Skeena River was an important transportation and trade route, making it a strategic location to locate the two villages.
The canyon enabled the Ts’msyen to control trade not just with other Indigenous peoples prior to contact, but also in the early days of the fur trade, including trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The fortress at Gitlaxdzawk was where the Kitselas were able to exercise their prerogative as a force of economic stewards of the river.
Today, the historical villages no longer stand, but a vast amount of archaeological evidence remains. Remains of some of the historic village sites are found along the length of the canyon.
Located on nearly 70 hectares of land, the site is home to important evidence of this long-standing occupation, including the historic village sites, culturally modified trees (CMTs), archaeological evidence of caches, artifacts, forest gardens, and below-ground remains that contributed to its designation as a historic site.
A National historic site
Kitselas Canyon became a National Historic site on October 19, 1972.
Today, you can find four interpretive buildings at the canyon, built in the traditional style of longhouses. The Canyon Trail includes four modern-day clan poles set amid towering hemlock and spruce trees as the path leads to the stunning viewing platform over the canyon.
Explore the rich cultural history at the Kitselas Canyon Nation Historic Site where you can discover the social, cultural and economic importance of this settlement area and see first-hand why this place remains important to the Kitselas people.