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The Highliners

History of the Haida First Nation

Home | Highliners | Perils of The Perfect Storm | History of the Haida First Nation | The Fishing Tradition of the Haida First Nations | The Queen Charlotte Islands | Message in a Bottle | A Treasure Chest of Links

                          
 Birth of a Nation

Remnants of a traditional Haida cedar home
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The Haida, a North American native culture, settled in the Queen Charlotte Islands and Alaska area  (known as Haida Gwaii) over 8,000 years ago. They were the first inhabitants of the region. The rugged terrain, abundant wildlife, cedar forests and proximity to the sea were elements that enabled the Haida to survive for centuries. The Haida developed a great reverance for the sanctity of the land on which they lived. Their continued survival depended on good stewardship of the land and the Haida culture is one of respect for the earth and it's inhabitants. The hand carved totem poles, paintings, and personal tattoo art all reflect this respect. At least 14,000 native people have lived in the 126 known villages in the area. The numbers dropped dramatically upon the arrival of European settlers until in 1911 only 589 native people lived in Old Massett and Skidegate. Logging destroyed many of the huge cedar trees used by the Haida to build homes and to form their dug out canoes. Futile attempts at cultivation by the settlers, dispersed wildlife and destroyed many of the plants that the Haida used to make medicine. A treaty between the Haida people and the government to protect the land was finally negotiated between 1993 and 1998. Stewardship for much of the land area was returned to the Haida people. Unfortunately, much damage had already been done in the name of progress and some species of trees, plants used in the making of medicines, and wildlife were severly threatened. Today, many species of plants and wildlife are protected but are still vulnerable. They are carefully being nurtured back to health in protected areas.

Link to George Storry.com

Link to Civilization.ca

Early Evidence of Haida Culture

"They had been decimated by epidemics, converted by missionaries, pushed off their land by settlers, and finally herded onto reservations by the government. Little of the Indian culture remains today." article by Marion Pearsall. Unfortunately, this fact is true. Much of the evidence of early culture has been destroyed. Still, there is some archealogical evidence remaining and there are some artifacts, art and early photographs that illustrate some of the culture which has been handed down from generation to generation. I have provided some very good links which  provide much more information on Haida culture I can on this limited site. Please explore them to learn more about the vibrant culture of the Haida way of life.

Link to the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Link to North American Native Cultures

Link to Haida Tattoo Meanings

Link to Haida art at George Storry.com

                           Symbolism in Haida Culture

Early Haida totem pole
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The inherent respect that the Haida culture expresses for it's surroundings have been represented throughout their history in their expression of art and literature. Symbolism plays an important part in these displays. The original Haida family structure divided the members into two groups, the Raven and the Eagle. These groups were further divided into many clans. The members of each group proudly displayed symbols and crests representing their membership. Both symbols are well represented through Haida history. Perhaps the most visible of the Haida art form is the totem pole. Carved from giant cedar trees, the totem poles often depicted the animal life around them. Some examples of early carvings still exist and there are still native craftsmen who continue the tradition today.

Link to "Art of Indigenous Storytelling"

Link to Eldrbarry's Raven Tales

Link to George Storry.com

           The Haida Language

Unfortunately through time and lack of use, the Haida language is in danger of being lost forever. It is passed from one generation to another and efforts are underway to preserve this national treasure.

Link to Haida Language.org

Link to Language Geek.com

The Haida Culture Today

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Examples of early Haida culture are highly sought after treasures. Original totem poles, carvings, paintings and other artifacts are very popular with collectors. Some of the traditional work like carving and canoe building is still being performed by skilled Haida craftsmen today.  There is an effort by the leaders of the Haida nation to preserve other cultural heritage such as the Haida language. Many of the Haida traditions have diminished with time but the effort to restore them is still alive.

Link to Tribal Crafts.com

Link to George Storry.com

Link to QC Islands.net