Nisga’a artistic production is based on the complex organization of clans, secret society performances and by potlatches, which are large feasts where name, rank or hereditary privileges are claimed through dances, speeches and the distribution of property.
Crest images are the most frequently used symbols in Nisga’a art. Every Nisga’a person belongs to one of four tribes: Eagle, Wolf, Killer Whale, or Raven. Within each of these groupings, there are many symbolic images or crests that recall the history and origins of each tribe. Crests are owned as property by a house and ceremonially displayed by its members. Objects that are most often marked with crests are architectural features such as totem poles, housefront paintings, beams, rafters and ceremonial entrances; costume features such as robes and headdresses; and feast dishes and ladles.
Basketry and weaving is a highly skilled and well-developed technology among all Northwest Coast First Nations. Women were responsible for making a variety of objects in this fashion, including containers for picking berries, and for the transportation of goods. From a variety of materials they also fashioned oolichan baskets, hats, blankets and cooking baskets. Coastal women mainly used the bark of the western red cedar for mats and containers, while upriver women also used maple and birch bark and spruce roots. Utilitarian objects made and decorated by men include storage boxes, canoes, woodworking tools and hunting and fishing gear.