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Definition of TSIMSHIAN
: a member of a group of American Indian peoples of west central British Columbia and southern Alaska
: the family of closely related languages spoken by the Tsimshian peoples
Origin of TSIMSHIAN
Tsimshian (Coast and Southern Tsimshian languages) c̓msyan, a self-designation, literally, inside the Skeena (River)
First Known Use: 1836
Northwest Coast Indians who traditionally lived in the Skeena and Nass river area in what is now west-central British Columbia, Can., and southern Alaska, U.S. The Tsimshian dialects belong to the family of Penutian languages. The traditional economy was based on fishing, with some hunting in winter. Large winter houses, made of wood and often carved and painted, symbolized family wealth. Descent was traced through the maternal line. Lineages functioned largely independently but did cooperate during major ceremonies and warfare. Various important events were marked by a potlatch. Early 21st-century population estimates indicated some 5,000 individuals of Tsimshian descent.