25 Years of Co-Management in Gwaii Haanas

Haida Gwaii Watchmen in Gwaii Haanas. Photo by Parks Canada / Neil Osborne

This year marks 25 years since the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada signed the Gwaii Haanas Agreement. The agreement was the first of its kind and was constructed without compromising Haida rights and title.

Since 1993, Gwaii Haanas has bee cooperatively managed through the Archipelago Management Board, which is made up of members from the Haida Nation, and the Government of Canada, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada.

There comes a time when a people got to do what a people got to do, and when the stakes are your land and your culture losing is not an option. A people armed with the truth are a people with conviction that overrides fear. A generation at a crossroad chose to stand.

A recent article by Shyanna Sawyer in the Haida Gwaii Observer describes the long process to establish the agreement, including a blockade at Lyell Island.

“There comes a time when a people got to do what a people got to do, and when the stakes are your land and your culture losing is not an option. A people armed with the truth are a people with conviction that overrides fear. A generation at a crossroad chose to stand.” – Guujaaw

In 1974, disputes began over the future of southern Moresby Island. The Rayonier logging company initiated a five-year plan to log Lyell Island. These unsustainable logging plans precipitated a public proposal to protect the South Moresby Wilderness Area. In 1985, the Haida Nation designated the area a Haida Heritage Site and a blockade by both Haida and non-Haida people was held on Lyell Island.

32 Haida mortuary poles at SG̱ang Gwaay, Gwaii Haanas. Photo by Dale Simonson.

Four years earlier, the Haida Gwaii Watchmen program was created. Although the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation could not agree on who owned the land, they did agree that it should be protected for future generations. Then in 1993, the Gwaii Haanas Agreement was signed. The Gwaii Haanas Agreement is a nation-to-nation agreement that established a co-operative management body called the Archipelago Management Board (AMB) and outlines both nations’ commitment to preserve Gwaii Haanas for future generations, maintain the continuity of Haida culture, establish a marine protected area in the future, and states that there is no compromise of Haida legal rights and title to the land and sea. In 2010, the waters around Gwaii Haanas were protected federally when the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site was created.

Read the full article on the Haida Gwaii Observer and learn about the new Gwaii Hanaas draft management plan here.