Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site of Canada
Gitwangak Battle Hill
Colline Battle Hill des Gitwangaks
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site of Canada (formerly known as Kitwanga Fort) is the remnants of a fortified village of the Gitwangak people, located on the Kitwanga River among the Hazelton and Buckley Mountain Ranges in central British Columbia. The designation refers to the large steep-sided mound, on which the fortified village was constructed and adjacent lands on which cultural resources directly connected to the occupation of the site have been identified.
Gitwangak Battle Hill was designated a national historic site because of
- the presence of an 18th-century Gitwangak hill top fort (Ta’awdzep),
- the association with legends which recall the epic battles of the warrior Nekt who fought to gain control of the network of lucrative trading trails from the Nass to the Kitimat Rivers.
The heritage value of Gitwangak Battle Hill lies in its associations with Gitwangak history as illustrated by the site itself and the archaeological resources discovered there. According to legend, the warrior Nekt was the builder of Fort Kitwanga as a defensive stronghold. Occupied from at least the 18th century, the fort comprised five longhouses on top of the hill and enclosed by a palisade. Closely connected to the main residential village of the Gitwangak, situated over the hill for its protection, the fort was used by the Gitwangak people as they raided settlements along the Skeena River and the coast. It was burnt and abandoned about 1835.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, January 1981; Commemorative Integrity Statement, October 2000.
Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- the site on a high terrace surrounded by low, open terraces on three sides, overlooking the river;
- its setting in a deep, undeveloped river valley among the mountains;
- landscape features identified in oral history of the warrior Nekt;
- remains of former longhouses in their extent with subsurface pits and their location and orientation on the hill summit;
- remains of the palisade and defensive works on the summit of the hill;
- evidence of adaptation of the hill for use as a defensive work (water pits and pools made by diverting the flow of the Kitwanga River to act as mirrors, remnants of intoxicating plants on the surrounding hills, indications of the movement of earth to increase the height of the fort);
- physical evidence of life on the site including puberty pits and food pits;
- surviving Gitwangak totem poles in whole or part;
- artifacts stored off-site, with their photographic and documentary records, and all recordings of oral history;
- the site’s controlled vegetation, with low bushes, poplar, and cottonwood trees;
- remnants of paths to the main residential village over the hill;
- viewscapes from the fortress to the Kitwanga River with its fields and meadows, north and south along the Kitwanga River valley, to the mountains, and to remnants of the Kitwankul (“Grease”) Trail;
- visibility of the fort remnants from the road and the water.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Battle Site
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate Documentation Centre 3rd Floor, room 366 30 Victoria Street Gatineau, Québec J8X 0B3
Cross-Reference to Collection