Haida Gwaii is an archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, Canada that is home to the Haida people and their culture. The Haida people have lived on Haida Gwaii for thousands of years. They have strong connections to the land and the sea, and have traditionally lived off of the natural resources found on the islands and in the seas around them.
Extending in a north–south direction for roughly 175 miles (280 km) and with a land area of 3,705 square miles (9,596 square km), the islands (about 150 in number) rise to nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 metres). The rugged islands have mild winters because of warm ocean currents. Naikoon Provincial Park occupies the northeastern corner of Graham Island. ). The islands are separated from Alaska by Dixon Entrance, from the BC Mainland by Kanalii Gwii (Hecate Strait), and from Vancouver Island to the south by Queen Charlotte Sound.
In 1988 the southern half of Moresby Island became Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site Park (formerly called “South Moresby National Park”) which contains several islands and areas with NO ACCESS to visitors.
Haida Gwaii’s three largest settlements are Skidegate L:anding (in the south) where the ferry to-from Prince Rupert docks, Port Clements in the middle, and Masset in the north.
The Haida people have a rich and complex culture, with a long tradition of art, storytelling, and carving. They lived in longhouses, built of cedar planks, and had a complex social structure, with chiefs and sub-chiefs, and a strict system of inheritance (which is matrilineal, inherited from the mother).
The first Europeans to sight the island group were Spaniard Juan Pérez (1774) and the Englishman Captain James Cook (1778). When Captain surveyed the islands in 1787 and named them the Queen Charlotte Islands after his ship, which was itself named after Charlotte, the queen consort of King George III.
After these European explorers arrived, the Haida people became involved in the fur trade. As a result of increased contact with Europeans, new diseases devastated the Haida population. In the mid-1800s, the Haida people began to resist European encroachment on their land and resources, and several battles were fought between the Haida and the British.
In 1852, a treaty was signed between the Haida and the British, which gave the British control over Haida Gwaii. This led to a period of great hardship for the Haida people, who were forced to give up their traditional way of life and adopt European language and customs. This was further worsened when the Indian Act was passed by the new Canadian Government in 1876.
In the early 1900s, the Haida people began to reclaim their culture and traditions, and Haida Gwaii became a center for Haida art and carving. Today, the Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay Llnagaay, located in the community of Skidegate on Haida Gwaii, is a major tourist attraction and a center for Haida culture and education. The Haida people continue to work to preserve their culture and traditions while also adapting to the modern world.
An agreement in 2009 between the Haida and the government of British Columbia created a joint management council so that the province and the Haida could share in decision making regarding the management of the islands’ resources. In 2010m that agreement officially changed the islands’ name to Haida Gwaii to honour the Haida people’s long history and habitation of the islands.