Ways of Life


Before modern yarns, twines and other weaving materials were introduced to the Nass River valley through European traders and missionaries, the Nisg̱a’a had to create their own fibres for making clothing, rope, baskets, twine, fishing nets, blankets, mats, and other items.

Their traditional fibre sources were stinging nettle, fireweed, cedar bark, spruce roots, and mountain goat wool (mountain goat wool was the most exquisite and rare of the weaving materials).

Stinging nettle was used to spin twine that was then used to make light fishing nets and small animal snares. Fireweed was also utilized for this purpose.

Cedar bark was employed to create different thicknesses of rope and cordage. In the early spring, the inner bark could be split immediately to create fibre for making light lines, or the entire bark could be treated more extensively to create sophisticated cordage such as string or heavy rope up to three quarters of an inch thick.

Cedar strips were split from the inner bark and used to weave mats. These mats were commonly used for wrappings, canoe covers, and sleeping mats. Strips from Douglas maple bark were also used for mats.

Strips of inner cedar and maple bark were also used to weave carrying baskets. The upriver people on the Nass most often made maple bark baskets, and these were known to be especially durable. Folded birch bark was used to make medium-size utility baskets.

Spruce roots were woven to create fine-twined baskets called g̱okw. These small baskets were used to pick berries or hold sewing things. Large spruce root baskets were used to pack water.

Mountain goat wool was also twined and used in weaving, but wool was a rare and precious item. Sometimes the wool was mixed with cedar bark fibre, as in carrying straps (perhaps for extra strength). It has also been said that the Nisg̱a’a wove socks with mountain goat wool in the past.

Portrait of a man with woven regalia
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Woven coat
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Portrait of a man outside in ceremonial attire
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Man in a black coat with ornamentation
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Man in regalia
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Group of people in traditional outfits
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Woman in black robe with ornamentation
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Man in black coat with ornamentation
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