Geography and Transportation

Gitsegukla is a Gitxsan village located in the Skeena River Valley, an area that is surrounded by mountains. The name Gitsegukla means ‘People of Segukla’. Segukla or ‘sharp-pointed’ being the name of a nearby mountain.

Most live in five Gitxsan villages (Gitwangak, Gitsegukla, Gitanmaax, Glen Vowell, Kispiox) and two provincial municipalities (Hazelton, New Hazelton).

Gitesegukla is located about 80 miles east of Terrace and 17 miles west of New Hazelton.  Situated in a beautiful valley on the Skeena river, the community is surrounded by mountains, spruce, birch, pine, cedar and maple trees.

The nearby mountain is an important feature of the landscape and our culture, named “Segukla” or sharp pointed (Athabascan).   The village is ‘Git’ meaning the people of Segukla Mountain.

The village was first located below the present graveyard and was destroyed by fire in 1872.  There are many stories passed down about this event.

In 1872, prospectors en route to the Omineca gold rush started a fire, which destroyed the entire village. As an outcome, there was a protest by the people in the village that resulted in an expeditionary military force being sent to put an end to the rebellion. (Source: http://www.sfu.ca/brc/virtual_village/gitxsan/gitsegukla.html)

The village was then moved further up the riverbank and rebuilt, including the construction of a church around 1900.  Disagreements about religion resulted in movement of some families to Andimaul, others to Carnaby, with some remaining in the village

In 1914, a major flood widened the Skeena River, washing away some homes.  Another flood in 1936 completely flooded the second village and washed away many totem poles which remained.  (Source: Adawkhl Gitsegukla, 1979.)

The traditional territory of the Gitxsan-speaking people covers approximately 33,000 square kilometers of land in Northwest British Columbia. Located along the Skeena River, upstream from the town of Terrace and the Kitselas canyon, are the seven Gitxsan speaking villages: Gitwangak (Kitwanga), Gitanyow (Kitwancool), Gitsegukla (Kitseguecla), Gitanmaax (Old Hazelton), Ans’pa yaxw (Kispiox), Kisgegas and Kuldo.

In the past, each of the communities mentioned above functioned primarily as winter villages on or near the Skeena River, except Gitanyow, which was further north on an oolichan oil trade route to the Nass River. The area has a rich ecosystem of birds and small mammals, bears, mountain goats and salmon-bearing rivers for hunting and fishing. The people also harvested and processed soapberries for trade with the coastal groups in order to obtain seaweed and shellfish in return.  (Source: http://www.sfu.ca/brc/virtual_village/gitxsan.html)

Traditional Transportation

In the past, the Gitsegukla travelled by foot using their own trails, mostly in the winter when the river was frozen over.  Travelling from Hazelton to Gitsegukla, with heavy packs, took two days, with frequent travel between all areas of the Nass and Skeena. (Source for all content: Adawkhl Gitsegukla, 1979.)

Canoes were the main means of travel on the Skeena, using large cedar trees to build canoes suitable for travelling long distances with both families and freight.  These canoes could carry up to three tons.

Non-Indians introduced transportation using both horses and steamships to the area.  The first steamships could not pass through the Kitselas Canyon, with canoes continuing to carry freight from Port Essington to Hazelton.

The first steamship passed through the canyon in 1891 as the Gitsegukla people had begun to charge higher rates for canoe freight.

Freight and transportation was again changed in 1912 by the first train from the coast to Hazelton.