Sigidim Haanak

"Nisga’a society is matrilineal—that is, it is structured based on kinship through the mother’s line. A sigidimnak’ (matriarch)—the highest ranking woman in a wilp, is expected that she will participate fully in Nisga’a society, not only in the preparation of food and clothing, and the teaching of young people, but also in the decision-making and governance of her wilp (house). Our sigidimnak' also assists in the formation of the young men and women who will eventually become future decision-makers. Sigidim haanak’ are educated to prepare them for great responsibilities. Like the sim’oogit (chief), she is responsible for making decisions that are crucial to the wellbeing of the wilp, including the final selection of the sim’oogit. Her role is that of diplomat, legal counsel, and political advisor. When a man becomes a sim’oogit, his wife will be identified as sigidimnak’.

While a sim’oogit is almost always a man, a sigidimnak' can be named chief when there is no man available or, stands as the sim'oogit until she observes that the boy next inline grows to be a man and  is able to fill the position. When a woman is named chief, she takes the title sim’oogit."

*Excerpt from 'Time Before Memory' - Nisga'a Language and Culture Department - School District #92 (Nisga'a)

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