04 July 2013
The Gitxsan traditional territories occupy an area of 33,000 square kilometres (about five times the size of P.E.I.) in northwest British Columbia. It is a land of rugged, glacier-capped mountains, lush forests and swiftly flowing rivers heavily influenced by the north Pacific Ocean climate. The Babine, Bulkley, Kispiox and Skeena Rivers are all found in Gitxsan territory and they are home to abundant salmon and steelhead runs. Spruce, subalpine fir, hemlock, cedar and pine make up extensive forests within the territory.
Much of the forest floor is moss-covered, providing fertile growing areas for mushrooms. Many of these are edible and one type in particular – the pine mushroom – is picked for export to Japan. Open areas in the forested land provide prime growing locations for wild berries. In the past, the Gitxsan actively burned areas to enhance and manage wild berry habitat. The landscape also produced many types of medicinal plants which were harvested by the Gitxsan.
The rich ecosystem supports a wide variety of mammals and birds. Small mammals, such as marten, are abundant and are trapped for their fur. Deer, moose and mountain goat are often used as a source of food. The land is also home to healthy populations of black and grizzly bears.
The geologic, mountain-building processes that have shaped the land over time have resulted in the formation of numerous mineral deposits such as gold, silver and copper. There are also natural gas and oil reserves, especially in the Bowser Basin in the northern Gitxsan territories.
The traditional territory hosts modern adaptations to the natural landscape as well. Two major highways and a national rail line currently cross through it.