Metlakatla is a community located at Metlakatla Pass about 87 miles (140 km) southeast of Ketchikan and 5 miles (8 km) west-northwest of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The village is one of the seven Tsimshian communities in British Columbia, and the only Tsimshian village not associated with any of the 14 constituent Tsimshian nations.
The name Metlakatla derives from the Tsimshian Maaxłakxaała, which means “saltwater pass.” Traditionally, this site has been the collective winter village for the “Nine Tribes” of the lower Skeena River. In 1862, the Anglican lay minister William Duncan established a utopian Christian community at Metlakatla, made up of about 350 Tsimshian from Lax Kw’alaams (Port Simpson) but with members of other Tsimshian tribes as well. Almost immediately thereafter, a smallpox epidemic tore through Lax Kw’alaams but Metlakatla was relatively unaffected, which Duncan interpreted for his followers as a sign of God’s providence.
Duncan’s dissident style and independent temperament led to his expulsion from the Church of England’s Missionary Society in 1881, and the creation of his own non-denominational Independent Native Church. Eventually, in 1887, he took about 800 Metlakatla Tsimshians on an epic canoe journey to found the community of “New” Metlakatla near Ketchikan, Alaska. Read more here and here. Explore more of Metlakatla here: