Tsimshian (tsĭmˈshēən) [key], Native North Americans speaking a language probably falling within the Penutian linguistic stock (see Native American languages). They lived around the Skeena and Nass rivers, south along the coast of British Columbia, and north into Alaska. Tsimshian culture, like that of the Haida and the Tlingit, was typical of the Northwest Coast area (see under Natives, North American). They depended for subsistence largely on the codfish and halibut of the deep sea as well as the salmon and candlefish that come upstream in spring. They also hunted seals and sea lions and, in the interior, bears, mountain goats, and deer. The Tsimshian were subdivided into four matrilineal phratries. The Episcopalian missionary William Duncan established (1857) a mission at the Tsimshian village of Metlakahtta, 15 mi (24 km) S of Port Simpson, British Columbia. Duncan moved, however, in 1887 to Port Chester, or New Metlakahtta, on Annette Island, and most of the Tsimshian followed him. Today the Tsimshian live in British Columbia and Alaska, where they live mainly by fishing and forestry. In 1990 there were close to 10,000 Tsimshian in Canada and more than 2,000 in the United States. Chimmesyan is another spelling for Tsimshian.
See F. Boas, Tsimshian Mythology (1916, repr. 1970); T. Durlach, The Relationship Systems of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian (1928, repr. 1974).