People of the Saltwater


People of the Saltwater

An Ethnography of Git lax m'oon

Charles R. Menzies

198 pages
5 photographs, 2 maps, 1 table, index


September 2016


$45.00 Add to Cart

December 2022


$25.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2016


$25.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2016


$25.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

A 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

In People of the Saltwater, Charles R. Menzies explores the history of an ancient Tsimshian community, focusing on the people and their enduring place in the modern world. The Gitxaała Nation has called the rugged north coast of British Columbia home for millennia, proudly maintaining its territory and traditional way of life.

People of the Saltwater first outlines the social and political relations that constitute Gitxaała society. Although these traditionalist relations have undergone change, they have endured through colonialism and the emergence of the industrial capitalist economy. It is of fundamental importance to this society to link its past to its present in all spheres of life, from its understanding of its hereditary leaders to the continuance of its ancient ceremonies.

Menzies then turns to a discussion of an economy based on natural-resource extraction by examining fisheries and their central importance to the Gitxaałas’ cultural roots. Not only do these fisheries support the Gitxaała Nation economically, they also serve as a source of distinct cultural identity. Menzies’s firsthand account describes the group’s place within cultural anthropology and the importance of its lifeways, traditions, and histories in nontraditional society today. 

Author Bio

Charles R. Menzies (Gitxaała) is a professor of anthropology and director of the Ethnographic Film Unit at the University of British Columbia. He is the editor of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Natural Resource Management (Nebraska, 2006), the author of Red Flags and Lace Coiffes: Identity and Survival in a Breton Village, and editor of the journal Collaborative Anthropologies.


"An important contribution to scholarship about First Nations of the Northwest Coast."—Eric Oakley, Pacific Northwest Quarterly Magazine

“Each of these chapters provides excellent case studies for teaching about Indigenous resource management and place-making and the continuity of these practices in spite of colonization and capitalism.”—Sara V. Komarnisky, Canadian Journal of Native Studies

“An engaging and important book. . . . Menzies effectively weaves archaeology and linguistics into People of the Saltwater, which also contains considerable history: oral history, written history, and Menzies’s own personal history. . . . [It] may be viewed as a hybrid, or crossover book that straddles the boundary between scholarly and popular. It is a significant addition to the scholarship of, and by, Indigenous peoples in British Columbia.”—Robert Muckle, BC Booklook

“An important addition to the Northwest Coast canon. Defying categorization, [People of the Saltwater] will be a meaningful contribution to class reading lists for Native studies, anthropology, and Northwest Coast studies and to everyone interested in the people and history of the Northwest Coast. . . . [People of the Saltwater] is complex and rich, with an intimate understanding of the intricacies of Git lax m’oon history and culture and the people’s relationship with their environment and natural resources.”—Frank Kelderman, American Indian Quarterly

“The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast have a special place in the history of anthropology, as they do in the development of autoethnography or native ethnography. . . . People of the Saltwater continues both of these proud traditions. It is a contemporary ethnography of a Tsimshian or Gitxaala community living still on British Columbia’s coast, written by an anthropologist who is himself a descendant of that society.”—David Eller, Anthropology Review

“[Menzies] astutely forefronts Native terms before their Canadian English translations to establish respectful priorities. . . . Because this is a contemporary ethnography by a native son, current legal and cultural issues are highlighted, firmly set within the context of a vibrant culture grounded in hereditary rights, adaawx, and wise leaders. . . . Of particular note, Menzies pays tribute to William Beynon, a Wolf-title holder (Gwisk’aayn), literate speaker, and prolific ethnographer and colleague of almost all the ‘greats’ of Northwest Coast anthropology.”—Jay Miller, Journal of Anthropological Research

“Menzies’s ethnography of the Gitxaała people is highly personal, enjoyably engaging, and a welcome contribution to community-based scholarship on the Northwest Coast. . . . Menzies’s analysis adds a clear voice to conversations about the impacts of global industrial processes on local peoples.”—Thomas McIlwraith, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Guelph and author of “We Are Still Didene”: Stories of Hunting and History from Northern British Columbia

Table of Contents


1. Git lax m’oon: Gitxaała and the Names Anthropologists Have Given Us

2. Smgigyet: Real People and Governance

3. Laxyuup: The Land and Ocean Territories of Gitxaała

4. Adaawx: History and the Past

5. Sihoon: Catching Fish

6. Tskah, Xs’waanx: Herring, Herring Roe

7. Bilhaa: Abalone

8. Hoon: Salmon






2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Also of Interest