Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park Photo Kim Walker
Kitwanga is a very small community, located where the Kitwanga River converges with the Skeena River in Northern British Columbia. Most of the town’s inhabitants come from aboriginal descent. The art and culture of the area reflect this, with many ancient totems on display for visitors to enjoy. Many consider it one of the best places in BC to see authentic totem poles. Additionally, the many parks in the area offer scenic hiking tours that showcase the beauty of the region.
There are several notable, and historic sites in the area. The Gitwangak Battle Hill is where remains of a fortified village occupied by the Gitwangak First Nation reside. This site is afforded excellent vantages up and down the Kitwanga River valley. Another is the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum which exhibits nearly 600 items of ceremonial and utilitarian materials, showcasing the great diversity of the Gitxsan people. Furthermore, the town is home to Judith P. Morgan, a notable Aboriginal painter.
Kitwanga is located on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway 37, 4 km (2.5 mi) north of the Yellowhead Highway 16 junction, between Kitwancool and the Gitwangak Indian reserves. It is 116 km (72 mi) northwest of Smithers and 99 km (61 mi) northeast of Terrace.
The grass-covered hill at Kitwanga was the scene of fierce First Nations tribal battles two centuries ago; which resulted in the destruction of the Gitwangak fort and cedar dwellings. Previously these structures had stood to protect the Gitksan people, their fishing sites, and the active trade routes in the region.
This area has nurtured northwest coast native cultures for over 7,000 years, with the Gitksan and Wetsuwet’en peoples always living here, near where the Skeena River meets the Bulkley River. The Skeena River served as an ancient trade route, navigated by 60-foot cedar canoes. The boats travelled from the coast upriver to totem-filled villages with magical names like Temlaham, Gitanmax and Kispiox.