The name ʼNa̱mǥis comes from a story about ʼNamxxiyalegiyu (the Halibut-Like Sea Monster). Before the great flood a ʼNa̱mǥis man knew it would happen because the Creator had sent a message in his dreams. He knew he must wait by the ocean for a huge sea monster, ʼNamxxiyalegiyu whose name meant “something terrible”. When rain began and never stopped, ʼNamxxiyalegiyu arose from the depths. It was so huge that the tides dropped around the world. The man climbed onto the sea monster, but ʼNamxxiyalegiyu was so big that he seemed to be a tiny dot on its gigantic back. The Creator gave this man supernatural power with which he could breathe underwater. ‘Namxxiyalegiyu protected the man all the time that he remained under the ocean.
When the waters went down ʼNamxxiyalegiyu returned the man to his homeland. The man looked around and saw that he was all alone, so he took the name Namukustolis (Only One in the World). He came to the beach near the mouth of the ʼNa̱mǥis River. Namukustolis was very lonely, so after a time, he snared some birds and transformed them into people. This is how he started the ʼNa̱mǥis tribe. He kept the great sea monster, ʼNamxxiyalegiyu, as his tribe’s crest because it was his protector and had saved him during the great flood.
Who live in
members living in ʼNa̱mǥis territory
ʼNa̱mǥis people have occupied the lands and waters that we currently live upon since time immemorial.
ʼNa̱mǥis Territory encompasses the entire Nimpkish and Kokish River Watersheds on northern Vancouver Island, along with the waters and several adjacent islands in the vicinity of Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Straits.
Historically, ʼNa̱mǥis resided throughout the territory, but currently are concentrated in ‘Yalis (Alert Bay, Cormorant Island) There are over 1800 ʼNa̱mǥis members currently living in over 100 communities in North America, as well as members in Europe, and the Middle East.
ʼNa̱mǥis lands have never been ceded to any other entity, government, or outside agent, we have owned and managed these lands for thousands of years.
Nimpkish is an anglicized form of ʼNa̱mǥis. If you listen to an older person pronounce ‘Namgis in kwakwala it sounds like Nimpkish. When non-indigenous people started to come to ʼNa̱mǥis lands, they obviously couldn’t speak Kwakwala, so they used words as they heard them, such as Nimpkish. Other examples are shown throughout the territory in existing place names; Woss = Wa’s, Karmutzen = Kamitsin, Maquilla = Makwala, Kilpala = Galtbala, and many more examples. These were our names for these places, and many are still on the land today, as are we.
Namima means “Those of one kind”, and can be compared to the word clan used by may other nations. ‘Namgis has five Namima, Tsi’tsilwa’lagami, Tlatlalamin, Gigalgam, Sisantle, and ‘Ninalk’inuxw.
‘Namgis speak Kwakwala, that is the common term for the language, with multiple dialects. These dialects are Kwak̓wala, ’Nak̓wala, Liq̓ʷala, G̱utsala and T̓łat̓łasik̓wala.
Potlatch is a chinook jargon word which is used today as an all-encompassing word for various ceremonies such as; pasa, tlinagila, hilugwila, and several others.