Haida Gwaii group strikes to revive Indigenous identify

A Haida Gwaii group is one step nearer to restoring its conventional Indigenous identify. 

The Village of Queen Charlotte, positioned on the southern finish of Graham Island within the archipelago off B.C.’s North Coast, was provided that identify in 1908 by white settlers.

However on Monday, council members voted unanimously to revive the ancestral Haida identify, Daajing Giids, pronounced “daw-jean geeds.”

“I am very proud,” mentioned Kris Olsen, mayor of the group that lies in the standard territory of the Haida Nation. 

“I can’t describe actually the expertise I am going by proper now as a result of it is … respect. It is transferring ahead in a manner that is respectful for the air, the land and the ocean, and the people who stay right here on Haida Gwaii.”

Olsen mentioned the brand new identify means frequent hat, or dancing hat.

In the course of the assembly, Coun. Ayla Pearson mentioned the identify Queen Charlotte made her really feel uncomfortable as soon as she discovered what it meant to the Haida individuals. 

“After I hear my friends and mentors discuss what the identify Queen Charlotte means to them, it does not sit proper to me to have our group referred to as this any extra. We have to acknowledge this request,” she mentioned. 

“Tonight that’s altering. However what hasn’t modified is my love and admiration of this group.”

Village of Queen Charlotte Mayor Kris Olsen hopes his council’s work to rename the group will function a framework for others that need to restore Indigenous place names. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Haida Gwaii itself was generally known as the Queen Charlotte Islands till it was renamed in 2009.

Council can’t change the village’s identify by itself; the province has to log off first. Olsen mentioned council will work on a letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs on the subsequent assembly on June 6 and can ship it to the province shortly after.

Olsen could not discuss whole prices to the group and province, however mentioned he expects them to stay low. As residents renew driver’s licences and different identification in coming years, their handle will change to Daajing Giids, he mentioned, so there will probably be no further prices there.

Conversations since 2019

The change has been within the works since April 2019, when elders and employees with the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program submitted a formal request to council.

“We consider all Haida ancestral place names ought to be restored to our land and our seas,” the letter mentioned. 

“We consider that our valuable Haida language will proceed to flourish when the restoration and reclamation [of] our Haida language place names is gently and respectfully given again.” 

Earlier than Queen Charlotte can formally turn into Daajing Giids, the province must log off on the change. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

The dialog was placed on maintain for all of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however was picked up once more in late 2021 when a group engagement session was held to speak about why the identify may or ought to change and reply questions from residents about what it meant for them. 

A survey despatched to residents earlier this 12 months confirmed nearly all of residents are supportive of the change; about 60 per cent voted in favour.

“We took this sluggish as a result of we needed to do it proper,” Olsen mentioned. 

“We’re transferring ahead in a manner that is uniting, it is wholesome, it is therapeutic.”

Olsen mentioned there was no steerage for his group by way of restoring the standard identify, and hopes that the work they’ve carried out will supply a framework for others trying to do the identical. 

“We stay in a giant nation,” he mentioned throughout Monday’s assembly. “Possibly it will begin spreading east so extra communities will have a look at doing what we’re doing.” 

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