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(tsĭm`shēən), Native North Americans speaking a language probably falling within the Penutian linguistic stock (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
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). They lived around the SkeenaSkeena
, river, c.360 mi (580 km) long, rising in the Stikine Mts., W British Columbia, Canada, and flowing S and SW to the Pacific Ocean near Prince Rupert. It is navigable for c.100 mi (160 km) upstream. There are fish-processing plants near the mouth of the river.
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 and NassNass
, river, 236 mi (380 km) long, rising in the Coast Mts., W British Columbia, Canada, and flowing SW to Portland Inlet of the Pacific Ocean. It is navigable for 25 mi (40 km) and has valuable salmon fisheries.
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 rivers, south along the coast of British Columbia, and north into Alaska. Tsimshian culture, like that of the Haida and the Tlingit, was typical of the Northwest Coast area (see under Natives, North AmericanNatives, North American,
peoples who occupied North America before the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th cent. They have long been known as Indians because of the belief prevalent at the time of Columbus that the Americas were the outer reaches of the Indies (i.e.
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). They depended for subsistence largely on the codfish and halibut of the deep sea as well as the salmon and candlefish that come upstream in spring. They also hunted seals and sea lions and, in the interior, bears, mountain goats, and deer. The Tsimshian were subdivided into four matrilineal phratries. The Episcopalian missionary William Duncan established (1857) a mission at the Tsimshian village of Metlakahtta, 15 mi (24 km) S of Port Simpson, British Columbia. Duncan moved, however, in 1887 to Port Chester, or New Metlakahtta, on Annette Island, and most of the Tsimshian followed him. Today the Tsimshian live in British Columbia and Alaska, where they live mainly by fishing and forestry. In 1990 there were close to 10,000 Tsimshian in Canada and more than 2,000 in the United States. Chimmesyan is another spelling for Tsimshian.


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.

References in periodicals archive ?
Viola Garfield, Tsimshian Clan and Society, University of Washington Publications in Anthropology 7.
The Native Heritage Center is a place to become familiar with local lore, the art of totem pole carvings incorporating iconic animals, and ritual practices of Alaskan regional tribes (including Athabascan, Aleut, Haida, Tsimshian, Eyak, Tlingit, Inupiaq, and Yupik).
While Nisga'a and Tsimshian respondents were asked questions related to the quality of governance and services, we also conducted 15 "key informant" interviews among the Nisga'a.
2002) 'Goods, names, and selves: rethinking the Tsimshian potlatch', American Ethnologist 29(1):123-50.
His examples included the words seep and sheep which for a Tsimshian speaker are indistinguishable sounds, just as sound of the "p" in pin and in spin are indistinguishable to English speakers.
While this rapid mobilization would create many stresses and strains on the long-isolated Native population, including the painful odyssey of the remaining Aleut population as it was relocated outside the war zone to camps in Alaska's southeast, the wartime experience would also help bring the two peoples closer together--most evident in the formation of the Alaska Eskimo Scouts in 1942, the famed "Tundra Army" organized by Major Marvin "Muktuk" Marston, which would become the Alaska Territorial Guard, with thousands of volunteers representing over 100 Aleut, Athabaskan, Inupiaq, Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Yupik, and non-Native communities.
He had by this time spent much time tracking down, copying, photographing, meditating on and studying Northwest Coast art treasures, primarily Haida and Tsimshian ones, and a lot of Charles Edenshaw pieces, held by American and European collections (there are tens of thousands of them: it was a hugely prolific artistic culture) and had trained himself to see, then render, the classical compositional forms--the ovoid and the formline--that are the structural building blocks of both two-dimensional and three-dimensional expressive forms of the Northwest Coast style.
Los Tsimshian llaman a este diseno 'el encuentro de los osos', como si hubieran sido representados dos osos" (citado en Levi-Strauss 1958:224-225) (Figura 11).
The American Indian Art sale of 20 May at Sotheby's New York includes this early Tsimshian birch wood crest head-dress in the form of a bear or wolf.
After founding the Metlakatla Indian Community on the island in 1887, the Tsimshian Indians lived in near isolation from the mainland.
Activists and leaders from many of these communities gathered in Winnipeg from November 12 to 14 this past fall From the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, Sheshatshiu Innu, Tobique, Kitchenuhmaykoo-sib Inninuwug (KI), Ardoch Algonquin, Six Nations, Moose Cree, Grassy Narrows, Red Lake, Anishinaabek of Gichi Garni, Ginoogaming, Pimicikamak, Pukatawa-gan, Roseau River, Sagkeeng, Lubicon Lake, Athabasca Chipewyan, Fort McMurray, Blackfoot, Gitxsan, Secwepemc and Tsimshian First Nations, activists and leaders of land, sovereignty and environmental-justice struggles converged on the historic Indian and Metis Friendship Centre in Winnipeg's North End to share their experiences and strategies in struggle.