By Meghan Payment
Last week Gwaii Haanas/Parks Canada staff gave a presentation at the Kay Llnagaay entitled “Our Culture”. This informative presentation gave the tourists, museum-goers and this intern a chance to discover more about traditional Haida customs and culture.
This event opened with one of Gwaii Haanas/Parks Canada’s Heritage Presenters singing a Chief’s song from Masset. The striking drumbeat and the singer’s rich voice carried the audience into the main portion of the presentation where we learned of the Haida worldview of Yahguudang or “respect for all living things” as everything is connected to everything else.
Beginning with discussing ts’uu (red cedar tree) as the tree of life and reviewing its many different uses; from being used to build a longhouse, carved to become a totem pole or war canoe, or in the traditional weaving this monumental tree is a focal point of Haida culture. To learning about traditional food, customs, and traditions the audience got a brief overview of Haida culture.
Connecting the traditional culture to present day, the presentation moved to cover the protest of 1985 when Haida Elders set up on Tllga Kun Gwaayaay (Lyell Island) to stop the logging of the southern part of the islands. This demonstration lead to the signing of the South Moresby Agreement between the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada, leading the way to the area’s designation as a National Park Reserve in the years following. Now, Gwaii Haanas is cooperatively managed by the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada, from sea floor to mountain peak.
In closing, we were privy to another traditional song, this one being a feast song commonly used during potlatches in the style of a sing-along. It was fantastic to not only learn about elements about Haida culture but to also be immersed through song was an experience that will not likely be forgotten.
Thank you to Gwaii Haanas/Parks Canada for putting on this public presentation, we look forward to more of these in the future!
To learn more about Gwaii Haanas interpretive programs like ‘Our Culture’ visit http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/
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