Welcome to the new Haida Heritage Centre blog!
I thought the best way to kick off this blog would be to write about the history of this very piece of land. K̲ay Llnagaay (kye-ll-nah-guy), which translates to “Sealion Town” in X̲aayda Kil, is a traditional village site of the K̲ayahl ‘Laanas Ts’aahl clan. If you’ve read the “about” section of this blog, you’ll know that this is the clan that I come from!
This clan had begun their history here, and moved to several other village sites before contact with European explorers. In the mid 1800s, the smallpox epidemic had spread through North America, including Haida Gwaii. This took about 90% of the Haida population. At this time, missionaries had begun to assimilate our people into the European style of living. With this came residential schools, new religious views, and harsh consequences for those who didn’t follow.
I talk about this topic almost every single day with the visitors that come to the Heritage Centre, and the conversation can be saddening. But if there’s one thing you should know about Haida people, it’s that we’re persistent in keeping our knowledge alive. We’re lucky to live on an isolated island with a treacherous body of water separating us from the mainland. Because of this our people were able to continue traditional practices like potlatching, pole carving, and food harvesting during a time when it was considered illegal. This is what keeps us strong.
I think the best thing that our visitors can do when it comes to topics like this is open their minds and hearts to understand our point of view. I hope that those of you who decide to visit our centre realize that this is a sacred place. We offer tours and museum exhibits and ask that you are respectful of the information being shared with you.
Hope to see you this summer at the Haida Heritage Centre!
Haawa for reading!