Haida Gwaii (“Islands of the People”), formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, and even before in Haida as Xhaaidlagha Gwaayaai (“islands at the Boundary of the World”), are an archipelago in northern British Columbia, Canada.

They consist of two main islands: Graham Island in the north, and Moresby Island in the south, along with approximately 150 smaller islands, including Langara, Louise, Lyell, Burnaby, and Kunghit Islands. The northern Pacific Northwest Coast, showing the position of the archipelago in relation to other islands in the region. The southern half of Prince of Wales Island is Kaigani Haida territory, but is not included in the term Haida Gwaii.

The islands are separated from the British Columbia mainland to the east by Hecate Strait. Vancouver Island lies to the south, across Queen Charlotte Sound, while the U.S. state of Alaska is to the north, across the disputed Dixon Entrance. Some of the islands are protected under federal legislation as Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, which is mostly Moresby Island and adjoining islands and islets (Gwaii Haanas is the Haida name for Moresby Island). Also protected, but under provincial legislation, are several provincial parks, the largest of which is Naikoon Provincial Park on northeastern Graham Island. The islands are home to an abundance of wildlife, including the largest subspecies of black bear, and also the smallest subspecies (Ursus americana carlottae) and the subspecies of stoat Mustela erminea haidarum. Black-tailed deer and raccoon are introduced species that have become abundant. On April 29, 2010, the British Columbia government introduced the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act, which proposed officially renaming the islands Haida Gwaii, as part of a reconciliation protocol between the province and the Haida people. The name became official on June 3, 2010 when the legislation received royal assent.

Courtesy of Jenn Dolen, who kindly allowed us to republish the Haida Gwaii Fall 2010 newsletter:
Here we are at the beginning of September already closing the chapter on one of the sunniest summers on record. You can often find kids playing in the ocean bays. Watch the eagles and ravens compete over the choiest fish, not to mention the Haida from the Eagle and Raven clans competing in one of the many canoe races during the summer. It was a fantastic summer on the islands of Haida Gwaii.

Haida Gwaii is a group of isolated islands in Northwest British Columbia that is home to some of the most interesting and welcoming people. We are also one of the largest and most islolated archipelagos in western North America and exhibits a rich diversity of biologically unique plant and animal species. We boast the largest and friendliest black bear species in the world – not recommended to hug!

There were some significant successes and milestones accomplished in the Haida community that we would like to honour. The official name change of the islands from “Queen Charlotte Islands” to the original name of “Haida Gwaii” was announced in December 2009. A ceremony celebrating the name change was held in Old Massett in June with Haida Dance groups performing with Premier Gordon Campbell in attendance. As well, the “Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve” was legislated this June as the new seabed conservation area extending 10 kilometres offshore from the existing Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, the world’s first step to extend park protection from mountain tops to ocean floor. Well done Haida Nation in keeping your culture strong and working to protect the natural environment!

Surfing is still a quiet gem up here in Haida Gwaii. Although the season for surfing the waves is generally in the winter time when the swells create the higher waves rolling into the beaches, one surfer from off island decided to circumnavigate the largest of our islands, Graham Island on his self made surf board by paddling one hand stroke at a time. It is a feat that will take him approximately 50 days to complete. A crowd of well wishers formed on the beach in front of the Haida Heritage Centre on the morning of July 23rd to witness the young man from Oregon start his adventure. He was blessed by the chanting of a Haida Spirit Song to give him luck and safe passage as well as the Welcoming Canoe song sung by some of the Haida people in attendance. Good Luck Eli!

If paddling a surfboard around an island over 6,000 km2 doesn’t appeal to you as a relaxing vacation, come discover the living Haida culture with potlatches and totem pole raisings, join the self directed Art Route all around the islands and sit at kitchen tables of the artists discussing their work or meander through one of the museums here full of history. There are lots to do on the islands even in the wintertime, you only need to know where to look…

Further information are available on: http://www.gohaidagwaii.ca/

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