Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs
The Gitanyow Huwilp Society was established in 1993 with an aim to represent the Gitanyow Huwilp. Mandated by our people and the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, our mission is to protect the Lax’yip for the Wilp membership through various negotiated or litigated resolutions with the provincial and federal governments.
The Gitanyow have never supported the long-standing ‘land selection model’ of the BC treaty process, but instead seek to uphold Gwelx ye’enst and maintain title to the entire Lax’yip.
“Through government-to-government agreements and economic development partnerships, we are able to benefit from the resources of the Lax’yip without ever having to sacrifice any land, thus extinguishing Gitanyow reliance on the Indian Act and ultimately creating a self-reliant system in which Gitanyow are sustained through the resources of the land.”
– Glen Williams, Simoogit Malii, President
The Gitanyow WILP SYSTEM
The Gitanyow Huwilp are a collective of 8 historic Wilp or house groups, organized into two Pdeek or clans:
- The Lax Gibuu or Wolf clan is comprised of Wilps Gwaas Hla’am, Malii, Haitsimsxw, and Wii Litsxw.
- The Lax Ganeda or Frog clan is comprised of Gamlakyeltxw, Gwinuu, Luuxhon and Watakhayetsxw.
The Lax’yip or territory of each Wilp is under the sole authority or Daxgyet of the respective Wilp, and the combination of all Wilp territories comprises the Gitanyow Lax’yip.
The Gitanyow are Gitksan people culturally, speaking the Git Gyeets or western dialect of Gitksan Simalgyax. Simalgyax is also spoken by the Nisga’a and Tsimshian peoples. The Gitanyow Huwilp have operated politically independent of the larger Gitksan people for several decades.
The Gitanyow Lax’yip is approximately 6,200 square kilometres in the mid-Nass and upper Skeena (Kitwanga and Kispiox) Watersheds. The Lax’yip has never been surrendered or ceded to any other government or third party interest.
The Adawaak or oral history of each Wilp is documented in the Git’mgan or totem poles, which communicate the history of the acquisition of the Lax’yip by the Wilp, as well as the defense of it. The Git’mgan serve as a deed of title to the Lax’yip, and when a pole is raised, the recounting of the Adawaak by the Simoogit or Chief is witnessed by all other Wilp and neighbouring nations as a continuous affirmation of ownership of the territory.
Simgigyet’m Gitanyow are the Hereditary Chiefs of the Gitanyow, with each Chief name being that of the Wilp they are responsible to and for. The Simgigyet’m Gitanyow also include Wing Chiefs and Matriarchs or Sigidmhanak. Together they address issues common to all Wilp and make decisions by consensus.
The President acts as a spokesperson for the Gitanyow Huwilp as directed by the Simgigyet’m Gitanyow. The main responsibility of the President is to carry the messages and decisions of the Huwilp to external governments, third parties, and other nations. The Simgigyet’m Gitanyow have the responsibility to practice and uphold Gitanyow Ayookxw or laws.
Ayookxw are founded on knowledge, experience and practice which are thousands of years old and are recounted in the Adawaak and the Ayuuks or crests. In contemporary times, the Ayookxw maintain ancestral knowledge and ethics, but can also be adapted to modern tools such as Land Use Plans and policies regarding water, wildlife, fisheries, and protected areas as examples.
Ayookxw are maintained through the feast system or Lil’ligit. In a feast witnesses are invited to observe and affirm the business of the host clan and Wilp. Feasts have many purposes, and are the main organizing forum for the Huwilp with duties and seating assigned according to Wilp membership.
All Gitksan people belong to a Wilp, and membership is passed on through the mother’s line, making our people matrilineal. Each Wilp member is to receive a name in the feast hall, from a list of Wilp names that is thousands of years old. Some receive only baby names, and do not progress past that, while others may have multiple names in a life time according to their rank and contributions to the feast system.
For more information on the Gitanyow Ayookxw, Wilp and Lil’ligit system please read the Gitanyow Constitution.