Nass River

Feature Type:River - Watercourse of variable size, which has tributaries and flows into a body of water or a larger watercourse.
Status:
Name Authority: BC Geographical Names Office
Relative Location: Flows W into Portland Inlet, NE of Prince Rupert, Range 5 Coast Land District
Latitude-Longitude: 54°58'37''N, 129°53'22''W at the approximate mouth of this feature.
Datum: NAD83
NTS Map: 103I/13
Related Maps: 103I/13
103P
104A
104H

Origin Notes and History:

Nass River adopted in the 4th Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, 20 January 1902. Confirmed 4 October 1951 on 103I, and 2 May 1957 on 103/NE.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

So-labelled on W.P. Blake's map of the Stikine River, 1868. Spelled "Nasse" on Trutch's 1871 map of British Columbia. Spelled "Naas" on other early maps & documents. The Indian Agent at Prince Rupert, Rev. W.E. Collinson, identifies this feature as Lishums, but did not provide the meaning of the name; Mr. F. Butterfield, BCLS, identifies this feature as Lishamus, meaning "dirty glacial water" (both letters January 1929, file A.1.31). At one time "East Fork of Nass River" was identified on maps - the channel since determined to be the main stem of the river.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

Nass/Naas is a Tlingit word meaning "food depot", referring to the enormous oolichan run in the early spring. "The drainage basin of the Nass is occupied by the Niska (sic), but those northern sources that interlock with the Iskut and the Stikine Rivers are claimed also by the Tahltan, and over this contention have occurred many wars that have kept these people apart. The Niska villages have always been on the main river and show evidence of considerable size.....the Niska were divided geographically (by the river canyon) into the Kithahteen "people of the lower valley", and the Kitanweliks "people of the upper river"." (Handbook of the Indians of Canada, 1913, p.350)

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

The Tlingit Indians of Alaska made periodic visits here because of the abundance of salmon and oolachan. They applied to the river's mouth the name "Nass", which is variously interpreted as "food depot" or "satisfier of the belly".

Source: Akrigg, Helen B. and Akrigg, G.P.V; British Columbia Place Names; Sono Nis Press, Victoria 1986 /or University of British Columbia Press 1997

"Nass" is a Gidagans word, and is the name they themselves applied to Lisims, for its abundance of resources. Naas in their language means "food basket".

Source: Nisga'a Tribal Council / Ayuukhl Nisga'a Department, Aiyansh BC

The Nisga'a name for this watercourse is Txaa K'alii Aksim Lisims [Txaa/ all, entire; K'alii/ upriver; Aks/ water, stream; Lisims/ murky]. The name is derived from the Nisga'a Creation story depicting the spiritual roots of the Nisga'a, and applies to the the entire watershed. When Txeemsim (the Nisga'a grandfather of Lisims) created the river Lisims, he walked down from Magoonhl Lisims (where the waters of Lisims starts) to Saxwhl Lisims (the mouth of Lisims). He then turned and looked up at his creation, hence its name. (The Nisga'a creation story is the reason Nisga'a are referred to by our neighbours as Git Txeemsim.) The murky appearance [of the river] is created by the strong force of the flow from the many lakes and streams and rivers that flow into it, especially during the spring thaw or heavy rains. Lisims was often described as "a wicked river" because of the turbulence beneath the surface. Often times, those who fell into this river did not survive.

Source: Nisga'a Tribal Council / Ayuukhl Nisga'a Department, Aiyansh BC

"We are familiar with the name "Lisims" but have never known it to be used in the context of the entire Nass River.... Our name for the Nass River is Xsitxemsem....our territory includes [that portion of the Nass River] from the mouth of the Tchitin River [to the] Bell-Irving River." (Gitanyow Treaty Office, November 1997, file N.1.96)

Source: included with note

"The Gitxsan know the entire Nass River as Xsitxemsem. However, Gitxsan territory falls within that portion of the Nass River from Nass Lake to the Bell-Irving River confluence." (Gitxsan Treaty Office, November 1997, file N.1.96)

Source: included with note