Metlakatla Pass National Historic Site of Canada
Pike Island (Laxspa'aws)
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Metlakatla Pass National Historic Site of Canada is located on Pike Island near the western end of the Metlakatla Pass, a narrow, protected ocean channel at the northern entrance to Prince Rupert Harbour on British Columbia’s northern coast. Metlakatla Pass was traditionally the place where the Northern Coast Tsimshian established their wintering villages. Coniferous forest covers the island while its shoreline contains archaeological sites and remains that include five First Nations sites, three former villages and two petroglyph sites. The largest village site, occupied prior to and following contact with Europeans, covers an area measuring 211 by 70 metres. The two older village sites measure 115 by 95 metres and 75 by 45 metres respectively. Trails link the islands village sites, while the petroglyphs are carved on boulders or rock outcrops on the island’s beaches. Official recognition refers to the island, which measures 550 by 350 metres, with its many archaeological and rock art sites.
Metlakatla Pass was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1972 because:
- the remarkable density of Late Period (ca. A.D. 500 to 1770) archaeological and historical village sites that collectively mark the traditional wintering grounds of ancestral Coast Tsimshian on the northwest coast of British Columbia;
- archaeological sites dating back five thousand years uniquely document the development of social complexity on the northern coast of British Columbia. This is supported by the presence of forty six historic and pre-contact archaeological sites along the shoreline of the Metlakatla Pass; and,
- its involvement in an ambitious mission and acculturation experiment in the late 19th century.
Metlakatla Pass was traditionally the place where the Northern Coast Tsimshian and ancestral groups established their wintering villages. The site illustrates not only several chapters of Tsimshian history at the pass, but also represents significant components of this long-term history of the Northern Coast Tsimshian at Metlakatla. The island’s natural setting imparts an historical ambience and spirit of place, which helps to communicate its historic value to visitors. By the late 1830s the Tsimshian had moved from Metlakatla to new wintering quarters at Fort Simpson (Hudson Bay Company). In 1862 William Duncan, a young Anglican Missionary, initiated a move back to Metlakatla to establish a model community. In 1887 Duncan and part of the Tsimshian community departed for Alaska. Pike Island remains the property of the Metlakatla First Nation.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, October, 1972, June 1982.
The key elements that contribute to the heritage character of this site include:
- the site’s strategic location on Pike Island at the entrance to the Metlakatla Pass, a protected ocean channel at the northern entrance to Prince Rupert Harbour;
- the island’s dramatic landscape, including its mature coniferous forest cover, its rugged shoreline and beaches;
- the integrity and materials of the extensive surviving archaeological remains, features and artifacts in their original placement and extent, including the historic cemeteries, in situ vestiges of structural remains of buildings, canoe skids, house depressions, petroforms, petroglyphs, and various non-structural archaeological features such as middens and as yet unidentified features from both the pre- contact and post-contact periods, that is, from approximately 5000 years ago until the late 19th and early 20th centuries;
- the retention of the knowledge associated with the First Nations and mission artefacts associated with the site;
- the symbiotic relationship of the Matlakatla Pass site to the dramatic natural setting;
- the viewscapes to and from the island including the view to the entrance of the Metlakatla Pass and the open ocean beyond.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Nature Element
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Québec
Cross-Reference to Collection