Tsimshian(redirected from Chimmesyan)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
See F. Boas, Tsimshian Mythology (1916, repr. 1970); T. Durlach, The Relationship Systems of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian (1928, repr. 1974).
an Indian tribe of northwestern British Columbia, Canada. Before the colonization of Canada the Tsimshian had reached the final stage of the clan tribal system. They retained a division into matrilineal clans, and there was a system of hereditary slavery traced through the paternal line. The society was beginning to stratify into classes, a division that found expression in the institution of the potlatch.
The Tsimshian, who lived in settlements, engaged primarily in fishing and in the hunting of marine and land animals. They were renowned for their wood and ivory carvings and were familiar with weaving and the cold working of copper. Their religion was based on totemism and shamanism, and there were secret religious societies. Today the Tsimshian, who number approximately 5,000 according to a 1970 estimate, are employed in the extraction industry, and many work in the cities.