English Translation: can you speak Gitksenimx̱?
Part of Speech: verb phrase
Language: Gitksenimx̱ (also sometimes spelled Gitxsanimaax)
This week we are featuring a phrase from the Gitksenimx̱ language, “Git” meaning “People”, and “Gitksen” (also spelled Gitxsan) meaning “People of the misty river”.
From First Voices:
“Gitwangak (Land of the Rabbits) is nestled in the Skeena valley approximately 300 kilometers from Prince Rupert. The population of Gitwangak is 490, which over 50% is comprised of youth under the age of 30. Gitwangak is home to the world famous Totem Poles, Seven Sisters Mountain Range, Battle Hill, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, and world class Recreational Fishing. Well endowed with culture and history, Gitwangak is a true Northwest Treasure. The local business in Gitwangak Include: The Gitwangak Band Council; Gitwangak Band Gas Bar; The Gitwangak Health Authority; The Gitwangak Education Society; The Gitwangak Watershed Trust; Raven Tales Studio; Gitksan Paint Brush; N & V Johnson Services; and Skeena Trading.”
Here are the statistics for the Gitksenimx̱ language from the Endangered Languages Project:
Did you know?
The Gitxsan people have an interesting and complex societal structure:
“For the Gitxsan people, the Wilp and clan are the two most important units of society. A person is born into a particular Wilp and clan. The Gitxsan, like many other small societies, are well organized through kinship lines. Kinship organizes most aspects of life including property ownership, economic activity, residence patterns, education, marriage, inheritance, political activity and most social relationships. All of these spheres of existence are determined by one’s kin group membership. The basic kinship unit is the Wilp or House. The Wilp is composed of a group of matrilineally-related kin. In some Wilps the biological relationships between all Wilp members is known. In other Wilps there may be two to six lineages between whom the relationship is no longer remembered. This is sometimes expressed as “maybe our grandmothers were sisters.”
There are about 45 to 65 Wilps, each ranging from 20 to 250 members and belonging to one of the four clans: Lax Gibuu, Lax Skiik, Lax Seel/Ganeda, Giskaast (Wolf , Eagle, Frog, Fireweed). The Wilp is a political unit with a considerable degree of autonomy. Each Wilp controls most of its own affairs. However, the chief’s power never becomes dictatorial. In fact, as expressed in the adaawk, dictatorial power is a matter of serious concern.
One essential reason why the power of a Wilp chief could not become dictatorial is that power within a Wilp is never exclusively held by the chief. Each Wilp owns a set of ranked names with power and authority generally corresponding to the rank of each name. There are gradations in rank as well. The Wilp chief is the highest authority and is the spokesperson on behalf of all Wilp members. In some cases there are two or more chiefs equal in power. Wilp members with adult names and a seat in the feast hall make up the third gradation in rank within the Wilp. The rest of the Wilp members are actually children or adults who are “children” in the feast system.
Wilp names are like immortal living entities. They are eternal but they are also perpetually changing. Their fortunes rise and fall and they are continually growing and declining. The individual who holds a chief’s name is seen as a temporary custodian of that name. They are obliged to hold up the honor of the name and thereby the honor of their Wilp by acting in a chiefly manner at all times and by fulfilling their chiefly duties.
The most important aspect of the Wilp is control over land. A chief is the nominal head of the territory. Gitxsan hereditary chief Solomon Marsden says, “the first person in the Wilp, the head chief is Miin Simoogit, and the power and authority is placed on this chief to make decisions on territories and Wilp plans.”
We acknowledge that the land on which we work is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.