To be born a Gitxsan is to belong to one of four pdek (clans) - Fireweed, Wolf, Frog or Eagle - and to have a place in one of 62 huwilp (houses). The wilp (singular of huwilp) is a collection of people who are closely connected through their mother’s lineage. A wilp consists of one to several families and can number from 20 to more than 200 people. Each wilp has a hereditary chief and acts as the decision-making body for everything from land stewardship to family affairs.
In traditional Gitxsan society, children were well supported because they had their immediate families to draw on, as well as, the support of the extended wilp and clan structures into which they were born. The wilp system has been maintained by Gitxsan people, and although some changes have occurred over time, the wilp system is still in place today.
Our research department works closely with the wii axho osxwit – elder circles – as well as house groups, clans, and GCFSS staff to understand the strengths of Gitxsan traditional systems and integrate them into family care programs and services. One tangible program that has been developed with this in mind is “Positive Gitxsan Parenting,” a community-based workshop. Some other ways that cultural research has been integrated into our programming are:
- Traditional feasts and celebrations of honour
- Culture camps to reconnect Gitxsan children and youth to their heritage