Around 1860, the Haida ancestors suffered at the hand of outsiders, when small pox was brought from Victoria to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Ninety percent of the population was wiped out. In 1884 the Canadian Government outlawed the potlatch and along with it went the culture. Items associated with potlatches such as bowls, ladles, masks, headdresses and all dance regalia were no longer needed. Artists died without passing on their knowledge of the traditional style of carving on to the next generation. In 1951, the banning of the potlatch was repealed after a long struggle. The elders tried to remember what they could to help the next generation rebuild their histories.

After the 1960’s appreciation for the Art and traditions from the past interested many Haida. Just when the people were regaining their identities, the missionaries moved in and convinced the people to give up their old beliefs and traditions. Totem poles were burned for firewood and the children were placed in boarding schools, without their families. They were not to speak their own language and disciplined if they disobeyed. Regardless of all of the upheaval, the Haida’s have endured; they have persevered and learned to survive in the modern world.

Acknowledgements: Argillite by Douglas Wilson, Potlatch by Steltzer, Islands at the Edge by the Islands Protection Society, Ninstints: Haida World Heritage Site by George McDonald, Bill Reid, Beyond the Essential form by Karen Duffek, Totem Poles by Hilary Stewart, Haida: Their Art and Culture by Leslie Drew.

Categories: Haida Culture

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