Haida People
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Haida People
X?aayda, X?aadas, X?aad, X?aat
Flag of Haida.svg
Flag of the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN)
Carver and Dancer.jpg
A Haida dances in full regalia.
Total population
c. 3,500+[1]
United Statesunknown
Haida, English
Haida, possibly Christianity and others

Haida (, Haida: X?aayda, X?aadas, X?aad, X?aat) are a nation and ethnic group native to, or otherwise associated with, Haida Gwaii (a Canadian archipelago) and the Haida language. Haida language, which is an isolate language, has historically been spoken across Haida Gwaii and certain islands on the Alaska Panhandle, where it has been spoken for at least 14,000 years. Prior to the 19th century, Haida would speak a number of coastal First Nations languages such as Tlingit, Nisg?a'a and Coast Tsimshian. After settlers' arrival and colonisation of the Haida through residential schools, few Haida speak the Haida language, though there are many efforts to revive the language.

The Haida national government, the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN), is based in the archipelago of Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) in northern British Columbia, Canada. A group known as the Kaigani Haida live across the international border of the Dixon Entrance on Prince of Wales Island (Tlingit: Taan) in Southeast Alaska, United States; Taan was traditionally and still is in Tlingit territory. The Kaigani Haida migrated there in the late 18th century. Haida have occupied Haida Gwaii since at least 14,000 BP. Pollen fossils and oral histories both confirm that Haida ancestors were present when the first tree, a Lodgepole pine, arrived at SG?uuluu Jaads Saahlawaay, the westernmost of the Swan Islands located in Gwaii Haanas.[2]

In British Columbia, the term "Haida Nation" can refer both to Haida people as a whole and their government, the Council of the Haida Nation. While all people of Haida ancestry are entitled to Haida citizenship, the Kaigani are also part of the Central Council Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska government.[3][4] The Haida language has sometimes been classified as one of the Na-Dene group, but is usually considered to be an isolate.[5]

Haida society continues to produce a robust and highly stylized art form, a leading component of Northwest Coast art. While artists frequently have expressed this in large wooden carvings (totem poles), Chilkat weaving, or ornate jewellery, in the 21st century, younger people are also making art in popular expression such as Haida manga.

In 2018 the first feature-length Haida-language film, The Edge of the Knife (Haida: SG?aawaay uuna), was released, with an all-Haida cast. The actors learned Haida for their performances in the film, with a 2-week training camp followed by lessons throughout the 5 weeks of filming. Haida artist Gwaai Edenshaw and Tsilhqot'in filmmaker Helen Haig-Brown directed, with Edenshaw and his brother being co-screenwriters, with Graham Richard and Leonie Sandercock.[6]

Haida wait for their Heiltsuk hosts to welcome them to sing and dance at a peace potlatch in Waglisla.


A Haida hereditary leader of the eagle moiety awaits guests with his nephew on the shores of his territory.

Traditional Haida territory spans the current international boundary between British Columbia, Canada and Alaska, United States. 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, who named them after one of his ships, the Queen Charlotte, which was in turn named after Charlotte, queen consort of 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 mainland British Columbia and the western United States.


Houses and totem poles, 1878

The Haida are known for their craftsmanship, trading skills, and seamanship. They are thought to have been warlike and to practise slavery. Canadian Museum of Civilization anthropologist Diamond Jenness has compared the tribe to Vikings.[7]

Oral histories and archaeological evidence indicate that the Haida have occupied Haida Gwaii for more than 17,000 years. In that time they have established an intimate connection with the islands' lands and oceans, established highly structured societies, and constructed many villages.[8][9] The Haida have also occupied present-day southern Alaska for more than the last 200 years, the modern group having emigrated from Haida Gwaii in the 18th century.

The Haida conducted regular trade 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.[10]

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, each created from a single Western red cedar tree, and big enough to accommodate as many as 60 paddlers. The aggressive tribe were particularly feared in sea battles, although they did respect rules of engagement in their conflicts.[7] The Haida developed effective weapons for boat-based battle, including a special system of stone rings weighing 18 to 23 kg (40 to 51 lb) which could destroy an enemy's dugout canoe and be reused after the attacker 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, using cannons and canoe-mounted swivel guns.[7]

Haida drummers and singers greet guests on the shores of ?ay Linagaay, a thousands-of-years-old village in Haida Gwaii.

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 the explorers reached 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.[11]

Also in 1857, 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 natives 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 Tlingit group from Kake, Alaska, in retaliation for the killing of a respected Kake chief in the raid the year before. Ebey's scalp was purchased from the Kake by an American trader in 1860.[12][13][14][15]The introduction of smallpox among the Haida at Victoria in March 1862 significantly reduced their sovereignty over their traditional territories, and opened the doorway to colonial power.[16] As many as nine in ten Haidas died of smallpox and many villages were completely depopulated.

Model of House of Contentment, late 19th century, Brooklyn Museum

In 1885 the Haida potlatch (Haida: waahlgahl) was outlawed under the Potlatch Ban. The elimination of the potlatch system destroyed financial relationships and seriously interrupted the cultural heritage of coastal people.

The Haida also created "notions of wealth", and Jenness credits them with the introduction of the totem pole (Haida: ?yaagang) and the bentwood box.[7] Missionaries regarded the carved poles as graven images rather than representations of the family histories that wove Haida society together. Chiefly families showed their histories by erecting totems outside their homes, or on house posts forming the building. Their social organization was matrilineal.[17] As the islands were Christianized, many cultural works such as totem posts were destroyed or taken to museums around the world. This significantly undermined Haida self-knowledge and further diminished morale.

The government began forcibly sending some Haida children to residential schools as early as 1911. 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.


Prior to contact with Europeans, other Indigenous communities regarded the Haida as aggressive warriors and made attempts to avoid sea battles with them. Archeological evidence shows that Northwest coast tribes, to which the Haida belong, engaged in warfare as early as 10 000 BC.[18] Though the Haida were more likely to participate in sea battles, it was not uncommon for them to engage in hand-to-hand combat or long-range attacks.

Archeological and written evidence of warfare

Analyses of skeletal injuries dating from the Archaic period show that Northwest coast nations, particularly in the North where most Haida communities were situated, engaged in battles of some sort, though the number of battles is unknown.[18] The presence of defensive fortifications dating from the Middle Pacific period show that the incidence of battles rose somewhere between 1800 BC and AD 500.[18] These fortifications continued to be in use during the 18th century as evidenced by Captain James Cook's discovery of one such hilltop fortification in a Haida village. Numerous other sightings of such fortifications were recorded by other European explorers during this century.[19]

Causes of warfare

There were multiple reasons that motivated Haida people to commit warfare. Various accounts explain that the Haida went to battle more for revenge and slaves than for anything else.[20] According to the anthropologist Margaret Blackman, who has done research on the Haida since the 1970s, warfare on Haida Gwaii was primarily motivated by revenge. Many Northwest coast legends tell of Haida communities raiding and fighting with neighbouring communities because of insults.[21] Other causes included disputes over property, territory, resources, trade routes and even women. However, a battle between a Haida community and another often did not have simply one cause. In fact, many battles were the result of decades old disputes.[22] The Haida, like many of the Northwest coast Indigenous communities, engaged in slave-raiding as slaves were highly sought after for their use as labour as well as bodyguards and warriors.[23] During the 19th century, the Haida fought physically with other Indigenous communities to ensure domination of the fur trade with European merchants.[24] Haida groups also had feuds with these European merchants that could last years. In 1789, some Haidas were accused of stealing items from Captain Kendrick, most of which included drying linen. Kendrick seized two Haida chiefs and threatened to kill them via cannon-fire if they did not return the stolen items. Though the Haida community complied at the time, less than two years later 100 to 200 of its people attacked the same ship.[25]

War Parties

The missionary W.H. Collison describes having seen a Haida fleet of around forty canoes.[26] However, he does not provide the number of warriors in these canoes, and there are no other known accounts that describe the number of warriors in a war party. The structure of a Haida war party generally followed that of the community itself, the only difference being that the chief took the lead during battles; otherwise his title was more or less meaningless.[27]Medicine men were often brought along raids or before battles to "destroy the souls of enemies" and ensure victory.[28]

Death in battle

Battles between a group of Haida warriors and another community sometimes resulted in the annihilation of either one or both of the groups involved.[29] Entire villages would be burned down during a battle which was a common practice during Northwest coast battles.[29] The Haida burned their warriors who died in battles, though it is not known if this act was done after each battle or only after battles in which they were victorious.[30] The Haida believed that fallen warriors went to the House of Sun, which was considered a highly honourable death. For this reason, a specially made military suit for chiefs was prepared if they fell in battle. The slaves belonging to the chiefs who died in battle were burned with them.[30]

Weapons used in battles

The Haida used the bow and arrow until it was replaced by firearms acquired from Europeans in the 19th century, but other traditional weapons were still preferred.[31] The weapons that the Haida used were often multi-functional; they were used not only in battle, but during other activities as well. For instance, daggers were very common and almost always the choice of weapon for hand-to-hand combat, and were also used during hunting and to create other tools. One medicine man's dagger that Alexander Mackenzie came across during his exploration of Haida Gwaii, was used both for fights and to hold the medicine man's hair up.[32] Another dagger that Mackenzie obtained from a Haida village was said to be connected to a Haida legend; many daggers had individual histories which made them unique from one another.[32]

Battle armour

The Haida wore rod-and-slat armour. This meant greaves for the thighs and lower back and slats (a long strip of wood) in the side pieces to allow for more flexibility during movement. They wore elk hide tunics under their armour and wooden helmets. Arrows could not penetrate this armour, and Russian explorers found that bullets could only penetrate the armour if shot from a distance of less than 20 feet. The Haida rarely used shields because of their developed armour.[33]


Haida Heritage Centre at ?ay Llnagaay
Haida carver Saaduuts, 2007

Historical Haida villages were:[34]


Lisa Telford, Haida basket weaver

The Haidas' calendar:

  • April/May- Gansgee 7laa kongaas
  • May/Early June- Wa.aay gwaalgee
  • June/July- Kong koaas
  • July/August- Sgaana gyaas
  • August/September- K'ijaas
  • September/October- K'alayaa Kongaas
  • October/November- K'eed adii
  • November/December- Jid Kongaas
  • December/January- Kong gyaangaas
  • January/February- Hlgiduum kongaas
  • February/March- Taan kongaas
  • March- Xiid gayaas
  • April- Wiid gyaas


They use the berries of Vaccinium vitis-idaea ssp. minus as food.[37]

Notable Haida

Diane Douglas-Willard of Ketchikan, Alaska.
Young Haida woman with lip plate, portrayed in Dixon, George (1789): Voyage autour du monde

Anthropologists and scholars

L-R: Haida lawyer gi7ahl g-udsllaay (Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson) and master carver gud san glans (Robert Davidson)

This is an incomplete list of anthropologists and scholars who have done research on the Haida.

See also


  1. ^ a b History of the Haida Nation, Council of the Haida Nation website. Skidegate and Old Masset are 1,471 combined, and 2,000 more Haida live in Vancouver and Prince Rupert and elsewhere.
  2. ^ Fedje, Daryl (2005). Haida Gwaii: Human History and Environment from the Time of Loon to the Time of the Iron People (1 ed.). UBC Press. p. 128. ISBN 9780774809221. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ "Constitution of the Haida Nation" (PDF). Council of the Haida Nation. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "Central Council Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska". Retrieved .
  5. ^ Schoonmaker, Peter K.; Bettina von Hagen; Edward C. Wolf (1997). The Rain Forests of Home: Profile of a North American Bioregion. Island Press. p. 257. ISBN 1-55963-480-4.
  6. ^ Porter, Catherine (12 June 2017). "A Language Nearly Lost is Revived in a Script". The New York Times. p. 1.
  7. ^ a b c d "Warfare". Canadian Museum of Civilization. Retrieved .
  8. ^ Hume, Mark (20 July 2012). "When did the first people arrive in the Americas?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2014.
  9. ^ "Caves reveal thousands of years of history". Queen Charlotte Islands Observer. 14 September 2007. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ "Canoes and Trade". Canadian Museum of History. Retrieved 2014.
  11. ^ Elms p 20, citing William Wyford Walkem, Stories of Early British Columbia, "Adam Horne's trip across Vancouver Island" (Vancouver, BC: Published by News Advertiser, 1914) p 41.
  12. ^ Puget Sound Herald Nov 19, 1858
  13. ^ Juneau Empire, February 29, 2008
  14. ^ Beth Gibson, Beheaded Pioneer, Laura Arksey, Columbia, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, Spring, 1988.
  15. ^ Bancroft says they were Stikines, a Tlingit subgroup, and makes no mention of the Haida. History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana: 1845-1889, p.137 Hubert Howe Bancroft (1890) This enormous source, photocopied, including p.137, is more easily accessible online at [1], if desired. Retrieved 2012-2-21.
  16. ^ "The Spirit of Pestilence". The University of Victoria. Retrieved 2014.
  17. ^ "Social Organization". Canadian Museum of History. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ a b c Ames, Kenneth M.; Maschner, Herbert D. G. (1999). Peoples of the northwest coast: their archaeology and prehistory. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 200-201.
  19. ^ Jones, David E. (2004). Native North American armor, shields, and fortifications (1st ed.). Austin: University of Texas Press, p. 101.
  20. ^ Ames, Kenneth M.; Maschner, Herbert D. G. (1999). Peoples of the northwest coast: their archaeology and prehistory. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 196.
  21. ^ Swanton, John Reed (1905). Haida texts and myths, Skidegate dialect;. Harvard University. Washington, Govt. print. Off., p. 371-390.
  22. ^ Collison, W. H.; Lillard, Charles (1981). In the wake of the war canoe: a stirring record of forty years' successful labour, peril, and adventure amongst the savage Indian tribes of the Pacific coast, and the piratical head-hunting Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. Victoria, B.C: Sono Nis, p. 138.
  23. ^ Ames, Kenneth M. (2001). "Slaves, Chiefs and Labour on the Northern Northwest Coast". World Archaeology 33 (1): 1-17., p. 3.
  24. ^ Gibson, James (1992). Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785-1841 (First Edition). Montreal: Mcgill-Queens University Press, p. 174.
  25. ^ Gibson, James (1992). Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785-1841 (First Edition). Montreal: Mcgill-Queens University Press, p. 165-166.
  26. ^ Collison, W. H.; Lillard, Charles (1981). In the wake of the war canoe: a stirring record of forty years' successful labour, peril, and adventure amongst the savage Indian tribes of the Pacific coast, and the piratical head-hunting Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. Victoria, B.C: Sono Nis, p. 89.
  27. ^ Green, Jonathan S. (1915). Journal of a tour on the north west coast of America in the year 1829, containing a description of a part of Oregon, California and the north west coast and the numbers, manners and customs of the native tribes. New York city: Reprinted for C. F. Heartman, p. 45.
  28. ^ Jenness, Diamond (1977). The Indians of Canada (7th ed.). Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, p. 333.
  29. ^ a b Harrison, C. (1925). Ancient warriors of the north Pacific: the Haidas, their laws, customs and legends, with some historical account of the Queen Charlotte Islands. London: H. F. & G. Witherby, p. 153.
  30. ^ a b Green, Jonathan S. (1915). Journal of a tour on the north west coast of America in the year 1829, containing a description of a part of Oregon, California and the north west coast and the numbers, manners and customs of the native tribes. New York city: Reprinted for C. F. Heartman, p. 47.
  31. ^ "Civilization.ca - Haida - Haida villages - Warfare". www.historymuseum.ca. Retrieved .
  32. ^ a b Mackenzie, Alexander; Dawson, George Mercer (1891). Descriptive notes on certain implements, weapons, &c., from Graham Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C. CIHM/ICMH Microfiche series. Royal Society of Canada, p. 50-51.
  33. ^ Jones, David E. (2004). Native North American armor, shields, and fortifications (1st ed.). Austin: University of Texas Press, p. 106-107.
  34. ^ Canadian Museum of Civilization webpage on Haida villages
  35. ^ "FirstVoices: Hlg?aagilda X?aayda Kil : words". Retrieved .
  36. ^ Parks Canada website Archived 2013-01-16 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Compton, Brian Douglas, 1993, Upper North Wakashan and Southern Tsimshian Ethnobotany: The Knowledge and Usage of Plants..., Ph.D. Dissertation, University of British Columbia, page 101

General sources

  • Macnair, Peter L.; Hoover, Alan L.; Neary, Kevin (1981). The Legacy: Continuing Traditions of Canadian Northwest Coast Indian Art

Further reading

  • Blackman, Margaret B. (1982; rev. ed., 1992) During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, a Haida Woman. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Boelscher, Marianne (1988) The Curtain Within: Haida Social and Mythical Discourse. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
  • Bringhurst, Robert (2000) A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World. Douglas & McIntyre.
  • Donald, Leland (1997) Aboriginal Slavery on the Northwest Coast of North America. University of California Press.
  • Andersen, Doris (1974) Slave of the Haida. Macmillan Co. of Canada.
  • Kushner, Howard (1975) Conflict on the Northwest Coast: American-Russian Rivalry in the Pacific Northwest. Greenwood Press.
  • Black, Lydia T.; Dauenhauer, Nora; Dauenhauer, Richard (2008), Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká/Russians in Tlingit America: The Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804, University of Washington Press, ISBN 978-0-295-98601-2.
  • Fisher, Robin (1992) Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890. UBC Press.
  • Geduhn, Thomas (1993) "Eigene und fremde Verhaltensmuster in der Territorialgeschichte der Haida." (Mundus Reihe Ethnologie, Band 71.) Bonn: Holos Verlag.
  • Harris, Christie (1966) Raven's Cry. New York: Atheneum.
  • Harrison, Charles (1925) Ancient Warriors of the North Pacific - The Haidas, Their Laws, Customs and Legends. H.F. & G. Witherby.
  • Huteson, Pamela (2007) "Transformation Masks" Surrey, B.C. Canada: Hancock House Publishers LTD. ISBN 978-0-88839-635-8
  • Kan, Sergei (1993) SYMBOLIC IMMORTALITY; The Tlingit Potlatch of the Nineteenth Century Smithsonian.
  • Snyder, Gary (1979) He Who Hunted Birds in His Father's Village. San Francisco: Grey Fox Press.
  • Stearns, Mary Lee (1981) Haida Culture in Custody: The Masset Band. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • The Hydah mission, Queen Charlotte's Islands: an account of the mission and people, with a descriptive letter, Rev. Charles Harrison, publ. Church Missionary Society/Seeley, Jackson & Halliday, London, England, 1884.
  • Yahgulanaas, Michael Nicoll (2008) "Flight of the Hummingbird" Vancouver; Greystone Books.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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