The History of Haida Gwaii
The Haida have occupied the Archipelago of Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, for over 14,000 years. Haida Gwaii is a six-hour ferry ride from Prince Rupert located in the west coast of Northern BC, north of Vancouver Island. You can see Alaska from the northern tip of the Island on a clear day.
Haida culture is vibrant and very connected to the place in which they live; for instance, there are twenty Haida words for ‘wave.’ The visual arts of the Haida people are world-renowned, and are influenced by their surroundings and myths: argillite carvings, totem poles, jewelry, and button blankets, to name a few.
The culture revolves around respect, and the Haida respect their land, which is why Guujaaw and the Haida Nation went all the way to the Supreme Court to win rights to protect their land. The Haida language is complex: for example, the word for ‘door’ in Haida is ‘k’yuu’ but it also means ‘path’, or ‘a way to a new world’, or into the next stage after death. The language is a mixture of the here and now, the mystical and myths.
Map of the Haida Gwaii
BC Tourism uses the word ‘Supernatural’ to Describe the Province, whoever came up with this idea surely visited The Archipelago of Haida Gwaii. The island provides an overwhelming feeling of peace and well-being. The lush forests, Ocean, and artwork and the feelings they create, gives you the sense that this is an old world. The Haida have lived here for 14 000 years and their culture is deeply tied to their environment. The culture remains strong because of their long and continued connection to this place.
tsuu aay ‘kiing jah
Reading The Cedar issue form the Haida Laas Guujaw sums up what it feels like to be in this place, this environment.
“tsuu aay ‘kiing jah
Looking into the heart of the cedar
For thousands of years the people went into the forest for cedar.
Among the living trees we find some with strips of bark removed to make clothes, hats and baskets.
We find cedar with planks split off-planks for a baby’s cradle, a cooking box, a drum, a house and a coffin. In the remaining forests we find stumps marking the remains of trees crafted into canoes, houses and to display the crests.
Some tluu will be shaped in various stages of construction. We will look into the heart of cedar and walk in the majesty of the great magician.”
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These beautiful words capture that sense of belonging to a place, that the Haida live here in harmony with the land.