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Emerging from out of the Margins

Essays on Haida Language, Culture, and History


Fredericke White

This book provides an insider view of Haida language, history, and culture, and offers a perspective on Haida culture that comes not only from external research but also from intimate knowledge and experiences the author has had as a Haida Nation citizen. The book’s focus on language – past, present, and future – allows insight into the Haida language documentation and revitalization process that will benefit other cultures currently addressing similar issues with their language. Being able to write and discuss Haida culture as an insider affords the opportunity to instantiate the role of a First Nations scholar including the intricacies involved in having a voice about one’s own culture and history. A First Nations person publishing a book about his or her own culture is a rare opportunity. However, such publications will become more common as other indigenous scholars and writers emerge from other margins around the world.
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2. Haida Mythology


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Haida Mythology

The Haidas live on Haida Gwaii—-which literally means “the islands of the Haidas”—a northwesterly Canadian archipelago of over one hundred islands in the Pacific Ocean. Haida history dates back to “mythtime” preserved in the oral tradition of creation stories, songs, ceremonies, history, and mythology of the tribe. The curator of the National Museum of Canada suggests that the Haida presence on Haida Gwaii spans nine thousand years. However, the last four hundred years have seen an exodus of some Haidas into Alaska. Only recently have the islands secured the traditional name, Haida Gwaii, for their homeland, though most maps still designate these islands as the Queen Charlotte Islands.

The location of these islands significantly influences Haida culture and identity. The splendor of the oceans and diversity of geography exert a strong bind that is difficult for Haidas to separate from their essence. The vast forests are some of the most spectacular in Canada—and even the rest of the world—with trees more than two thousand years old. Logging currently endangers these forests, and the Haida are committed to halting the full-scale destruction of the forests. These trees have contributed to Haida skill in architecture, woodcarving (particularly their great totem poles), and canoe design. The pervasive unique flora and fauna on these islands also earned them the nickname the Canadian Galapagos. The climate is rather mild with winter temperatures dipping into the mid 30s (F.) and...

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