Haida Gwaii community set to restore native name

A community in Haida Gwaii is about to restore its traditional Aboriginal name.

The village of Queen Charlotte, located at the southern end of Graham Island in the archipelago off the north coast of British Columbia, was given this name in 1908 by white settlers.

But on Monday, council members voted unanimously to restore the ancestral Haida name, Daajing Giids, pronounced “daw-jean geeds.”

“I’m very proud,” said Kris Olsen, mayor of the community located on the traditional territory of the Haida Nation.

“I can’t really describe the experience I’m going through right now because it’s… respect. It’s moving forward in a way that respects the air, the land and the sea, and the people who live here in Haida Gwaii.

Olsen said the new name means common hat or dancing hat.

During the meeting, the con. Ayla Pearson said the name Queen Charlotte always made her feel uncomfortable.

“When I hear my peers and mentors talk about what the name Queen Charlotte means to them, it no longer suits me that our community is called that. We need to recognize that demand,” she said.

“Tonight, that changes. But what hasn’t changed is my love and admiration for this community.”

Haida Gwaii itself was known as the Queen Charlotte Islands until it was renamed in 2009.

The council cannot change the name of the village on its own; the province must first approve. Olsen said council will work on a letter to the Department of Municipal Affairs at the next meeting on June 6 and send it to the province shortly after.

Olsen could not speak to the total costs to the community and the province, but said he expects them to remain low. As residents renew their driver’s licenses and other IDs in the coming years, their address will change to Daajing Giids, he said, so there will be no additional charges there. -low.

Conversations since 2019

Change has been in the works since April 2019, when alumni and staff of the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program submitted a formal request to the council.

“We believe that all Haida ancestral place names should be restored to our lands and seas,” the letter reads.

“We believe that our treasured Haida language will continue to flourish as restoration and rehabilitation [of] our place names in the Haida language are returned to us with kindness and respect. »

Before Queen Charlotte officially becomes Daajing Giids, the province will need to approve the change. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

The Conversation was suspended for all of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but resumed at the end of 2021 when a community engagement session was held to discuss why the name could or should changing and answering questions from residents. about what it meant to them.

A poll sent to residents earlier this year showed that the majority of residents are in favor of the change; about 60% voted in favour.

“We took it slow because we wanted to get it right,” Olsen said.

“We move forward in a way that unites, it’s healthy, it heals.”

Olsen said there is no direction for his community in terms of restoring the traditional name and hopes the work they have done will provide a framework for others looking to do the same.

“We live in a big country,” he said at Monday’s meeting. “Maybe it will start spreading eastward so more communities are considering doing what we’re doing.”