Haida people have called Haida Gwaii home since time immemorial. Their traditional territory encompasses parts of southern Alaska, the archipelago of Haida Gwaii and its surrounding waters.
Raising of the Gwaii Haanas Legacy pole in Hlk’yah Gawga (Windy Bay). Photo by Darryl Dyck, courtesy of The Canadian Press
Pre-contact, the Haida population numbered tens of thousands, living in communities located all over the islands. During contact that number fell to approximately 600 due to introduced diseases.
Today, Haida citizens total approximately 2,500, and comprise half the population of Haida Gwaii. There are a further 2,000 members worldwide, including large populations in Vancouver and Prince George.
Building on the 2007 Strategic Land Use Planning Agreement, the Council of the Haida Nation and the Province of British Columbia signed the Kunst’aa Guu – Kunst’aayah Reconciliation Protocol in 2009. This agreement recognised the differing views of both parties with regards to sovereignty, title, ownership, and jurisdiction over Haida Gwaii whilst endeavoring to establish a more productive relationship to land and natural resources management. Through this approach, both parties committed to strengthen the relationship between environmental, socio-well-being and economic development on Haida Gwaii.
The Haida Nation collectively holds Hereditary and Aboriginal Title and Rights to Haida Territories and the cultural and intellectual property rights of the Haida Nation. All people of Haida ancestry are citizens of the Haida Nation. Every Haida citizen has the right of access to all Haida Gwaii resources for cultural reasons, and for food or commerce consistent with the Laws of Nature as reflected in the laws of the Haida Nation.
Our culture is born of respect, and intimacy with the land and sea and the air around us. Like the forests, the roots of our people are intertwined such that the greatest troubles cannot overcome us. We owe our existence to Haida Gwaii. The living generation accepts the responsibility to ensure that our heritage is passed on to following generations.
Old Massett Village Council’s promising new venture, Hiellen Longhouse Village, is providing ecotourism experiences of visitors to Haida Gwaii, creating jobs and training for locals, and hosting events that contribute to the Haida Nation’s ongoing cultural revitalization.
The Coastal Stewardship Network is supporting its member First Nations as they’ve established sophisticated monitoring programs and their analyses informing vital environmental and resource management decisions.
First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii, and across the entirety of what is now called Canada, have been stewarding their lands and waters for millennia. The pivotal work of Coastal First Nations in laying the groundwork for Indigenous Guardian programs was featured in a recent article by Sierra Magazine.