Haida Gwaii
Summer Terms

Haida Gwaii Summer Terms

May to June, HlG̱aagilda (Skidegate)

The Haida Gwaii Summer Terms are organized into Term 1 and Term 2. Each term has two courses that have been developed to be offered as a pair, and integrate classroom and field instruction with local guest speakers and numerous field activities. Each course is accredited through the University of British Columbia. The program is well suited for undergraduate students in their third or fourth year of a degree, graduate students, and those looking for professional development.

Term 1 (May 14th to June 2nd, 2018): Introduction to Systems Thinking; and, Introduction to Environmental Assessment.

Term 2 (June 4th to 23rd, 2018): Plant Ecology and Diversity; and, Ethnoecology and Ethnobotany.

Please scroll down for more information on each course.


Term 1 - May 14th to June 2nd, 2018


Introduction to Systems Thinking

Instructors: Dan McCarthy and Haida Gwaii Community Educators

As human beings in an interconnected world, we face a number of complex and seemingly intractable problems including such things as climate change, food security, global poverty and pandemic diseases. Understanding how to address such problems is the first step to solving them. Ultimately, we need to foster social and ecological resilience. Resilience is the ability of a linked social and ecological system to respond to stress and build the adaptive capacity of individuals and groups to respond to stress. This course provides an opportunity to learn and apply the conceptual tools of systems thinking and complexity theories for fostering social change and building adaptive capacity through application to cases on Haida Gwaii. Students are provided with an introduction to the conceptual tools of systems thinking, complexity and resilience that help understand the dynamics of social-ecological change and social innovation. The course will be co-taught with local, community educators from Haida Gwaii and will incorporate local knowledge and local case examples to help elucidate and ground systems-based and complexity concepts.


Introduction to Environmental Assessment

Instructors: Dan McCarthy and Haida Gwaii Community Educators

This course is an introduction to the field and practice of environmental assessment (EA) in Canada with specific reference to EA processes in cross-cultural and Indigenous contexts. This course will make specific references to cases on Haida Gwaii and will be co-taught with local, community educators from Haida Gwaii. We will explore processes and techniques for incorporating environmental considerations in planning and evaluating proposals for future undertakings that may have significant social and ecological effects. The course provides an overview of the methodologies for the design and conduct of environmental impact studies that adhere to the Crown’s legal and constitutional obligations to Indigenous People’s. The main objective of this course is to introduce students to environmental assessment, with a focus on the origins, purposes, processes and gradual evolution of EA toward a sustainability-oriented framework, with particular reference to the Canadian federal environmental assessment regime. In particular, the course will make specific reference to the incorporation of Indigenous Knowledge into EA practice and the implications of such decision-making processes in light of the Crown’s Duty to Consult and Accommodate, self-governance, self-determination and reconciliation.


Term 2 - June 4th to 23rd, 2018


Plant Ecology and Diversity

Instructors: Andy MacKinnon and Kii'iljuus Barbara Wilson

Plant ecology is the study of the distribution and abundance of plants, the effects of environmental factors upon the abundance of plants, and the interactions among and between plants and other organisms. In this course we address these topics within the ecosystems of the coastal temperate rainforest in general, and of Haida Gwaii in particular. We will discuss the history of botanical exploration, and of ecosystem classification and mapping, on Haida Gwaii. We will learn to identify key plants and ecosystems and their ecological importance. We will meet Haida botanists and land managers, will hear some of their stories about economic, social and cultural use of plants. We’ll also spend time with wildlife biologists and recreation and tourism experts, and learn about the importance of forested and non-forested ecosystems and their plants to wildlife and humans. We will undertake experiential learning on Haida territory. Assignments will include: a field plant identification quiz; a write-up, presentation and brief exhibit “blurb” on a selected group of plants; a literature review; and a short term paper on a topic relevant to the course. Prerequisites for the course: first year biology and/or botany and/or ecology at a post-secondary institution.


Ethnoecology and Ethnobotany

Instructors: Nancy Turner and Kii'iljuus Barbara Wilson

Ethnoecology is the study of cultural ecological knowledge and of the interactions between human societies and their environments, including other species. Ethnobotany is the study of the direct interrelationships between people and the plants, past, present and future. In this course we address these topics within the context of Haida culture and language and the ecosystems of Haida Gwaii. We will discuss the historical roots of ethnoecology and ethnobotany, the directions & trends in these fields over the past century, and their relevance in today’s world. We will learn to identify key plants and ecosystems and their cultural importance, will focus on traditional land and resource management systems, and discuss issues of ethics and intellectual properties rights in relation to Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge. We will meet Haida knowledge holders and language experts, will hear some of the ancient stories that bind people with their environments, learn about cultural practices and taboos, and undertake experiential learning on Haida territory. We will also interact with secondary school students from Haida Gwaii, undertake a collaborative ethnobotany project at the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay, and participate in a field trip with botanists attending the Botany BC* meetings on Haida Gwaii. Assignments will include a write-up, presentation and brief exhibit “blurb” on a selected culturally important plant with its Haida name, a literature review, a practical planting/transplanting project at Ḵay Llnagaay, and a short term paper on a topic relevant to the course. Prerequisites for the course: first year biology and/or botany and/or ecology at a post-secondary institution.


For more information, please contact HGHES Operations Manager, Emily-Sky Collins, at operations@hghes.ca or by phone at 250-559-7885 ext. 230


  • "The Haida Gwaii Semester was truly life changing. I came away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of community, multi-disciplinary collaboration, and traditional knowledge. I made meaningful friendships, felt inspired each and everyday, and really felt I was my best self. The communities on Haida Gwaii deserve just as much, if not more admiration as the natural environment that they are built on. I am incredibly grateful for the experiences that I came away with because of the generosity of those that call Haida Gwaii home.”
    Rhiannon Moore
    Alumni 2012
  • "Doing the Haida Gwaii Semester is one of the best things I have ever done. For me, it was the perfect place to live and learn. Combining life and learning was quite seamless and happened organically [. . . ] I still aim to return to the islands as soon as I can.”
    Tracey Proverbs
    Alumni 2012
  • "I loved the program, the people I met, everything we learned, all the places we got to explore; this semester was the highlight of my university career!"
    Mariel McLeod
    Alumni 2013