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The Haida (English pronunciation: //, HY-də), historically sometimes spelled Hydah, are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. Their main territory is the archipelago of Haida Gwaii in northern British Columbia, but a group known as the Kaigani Haida live across the Dixon Entrance on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska.
In British Columbia, the term "Haida Nation" refers both to the people as a whole and is often used synonymously with their government, the Council of the Haida Nation. Alaskan Haida, the Kaigani, are part of the Central Council Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska government. The Haida language has sometimes been classified as one of the Na-Dene group, but is usually considered to be an isolate.
Haida society continues to be very engaged in the production of a robust and highly stylized art form, a leading component of Northwest Coast art. While frequently expressed in large wooden carvings (totem poles), Chilkat weaving, or ornate jewellery, it is also moving quickly into works of popular expression such as Haida manga.
Haida territories span the boundary between British Columbia and Alaska. Their heartland is the two large and many smaller islands known as Haida Gwaii, which means "island of the people" in Haida. This archipelago was surveyed in 1787 by Captain George Dixon of the British Navy. They were named the Queen Charlotte Islands by Captain Dixon after one of his ships, the Queen Charlotte, which was named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of the United Kingdom. The name "Queen Charlotte Islands" was subsequently "given back" to the Crown in a ceremony between the British Columbia government and the Council of the Haida Nation. Haida also live in Southeast Alaska, particularly on the southern half of Prince of Wales Island in communities such as Hydaburg, and in large cities elsewhere in the region such as Ketchikan. Haida also live in various cities in British Columbia and the western United States.
The Haida were known for their craftsmanship, apt trading skills, seamanship, their warlike nature and their practice of slavery. Canadian Museum of Civilization anthropologist Diamond Jenness has compared the tribe to Vikings. The Haida also "created notions of wealth", and he credits the Haida with the introduction of the totem pole and the bentwood box.
Oral histories and archaeological evidence indicate that the Haida have occupied Haida Gwaii for over 17,000 years. In that time Haidas established an intimate connection with the lands and oceans of Haida Gwaii, established highly structured societies, and constructed many villages. The Haida have occupied southern Alaska for over the last 200 years, the modern group having emigrated from Haida Gwaii in the 18th Century.
The Haida were important trading partners with Russian, Spanish, British, and American fur traders and whalers. According to sailing records they diligently maintained strong trade relationships with westerners, coastal people, and among themselves. Haidas were particularly well known for their large red-cedar canoes.
The introduction of small pox among the Haida at Victoria in March 1862 significantly reduced their sovereignty over their traditional territories, and opened the doorway to colonial power. As many as 9 in 10 Haidas died of smallpox.
In 1885 the Haida potlatch (Haida: waahlgahl) was illegalized under the Potlatch Ban. The elimination of the potlatch system eliminated financial relationships and seriously interrupted the cultural heritage of coastal people.
Missionaries regarded Haida totem poles (Haida: ǥyaagang) as graven images rather than intimate representations of the family histories that wove Haida society together. As the islands were Christianized many such cultural works were destroyed or taken to museums around the world. This significantly undermined Haida self-knowledge and further diminished morale.
The government began forcibly sending Haida children to residential schools as early as 1920. Haida children were sent as far away as Alberta to live among English-speaking families where they were to be assimilated into the dominant culture.
Like other groups on the Northwest Coast, the Haida defended themselves with fortifications, including palisades, trapdoors and platforms. They took to water in large ocean-going canoes, large enough to accommodate as many as 60 paddlers, each created from a single Western red cedar tree. The aggressive tribe were particularly feared in sea battles, although they did respect rules of engagement in their conflicts. The Haida developed effective weapons for boat-based battle, including a special system of stone rings weighing 18 to 23 kilograms (40 to 51 lb) which could destroy an enemy's dugout canoe and be reused after the Haida pulled it back with the attached cedar bark rope. The Haida took captives from defeated enemies. Between 1780 and 1830, the Haida turned their aggression towards European and American traders. Among the half-dozen ships the tribe captured were the Eleanor and the Susan Sturgis. The tribe made use of the weapons they so acquired, utilizing cannons and canoe-mounted swivel guns.
In 1856, an expedition in search of a route across Vancouver Island was at the mouth of the Qualicum River when they observed a large fleet of Haida canoes approaching and hid in the forest. They observed these attackers holding human heads. When they came to the mouth of the river, they came upon the charred remains of the village of the Qualicum people and the mutilated bodies of its inhabitants, with only one survivor, an elderly woman, hiding terrified inside a tree stump. Also in 1856, the USS Massachusetts was sent from Seattle to nearby Port Gamble, where indigenous raiding parties made up of Haida (from territory claimed by the British) and Tongass (from territory claimed by the Russians) had been attacking and enslaving the Coast Salish people there. When the Haida and Tongass (sea lion tribe Tlingit) warriors refused to acknowledge American jurisdiction and to hand over those among them who had attacked the Puget Sound communities, a battle ensued in which 26 Native Americans and one government soldier were killed. In the aftermath of this, Colonel Isaac Ebey, a US military officer and the first settler on Whidbey Island, was shot and beheaded on 11 August 1857 by a small Haida fleet, in retaliation for the killing of a respected Haida citizen during similar raids the year before. British authorities demurred to pursue or confront any northern indigenous nations as they passed northward through waters over which the British nevertheless claimed sovereignty and Ebey's killers were never caught.
Historical Haida villages were:
The Haidas' calendar:
This is an incomplete list of anthropologists and scholars who have done research on the Haida.
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