Ways of Life

Funeral Rites

When there was a death in a Nisg̱a’a family, certain protocols were carefully followed to ensure the safe passage of the spirit and the wellbeing of the surviving family. These protocols are still followed today.

For example, when a marital spouse dies, the surviving husband or wife invites a member of their spouse’s family to assist them for four days while their deceased spouse lies-in-state. The invited member must be a widow or widower themselves; if they are still married, bad luck may be visited upon their marriage.

The belief is that the spirit of the deceased person lingers for four days after death. During this time, the surviving spouse must observe the ritual sanction called T’aa. The spouse is not permitted to talk to anyone other than the family relative who is assisting them, otherwise they invite bad luck and harm to more family members.

While the deceased lies-in-state, the rest of the immediate family must also practice care in their speech and actions. They must avoid spilling tears on the deceased or leaving any personal objects with the body.

Long ago, all Nisg̱a’a people had long hair. Traditionally, the surviving spouse and the children would all have their hair cut by the assisting relative. This practice was called Ḵ̱uts Gis. Their hair would be cut in a straight line around their heads from ear to ear, and they would wear their hair in this manner for one entire year. Their hair cut indicated that they were in mourning.