Protocol signing is step towards unity, co-operation

  • Fri Nov 24th, 2006 1:00pm
  • News

At least 350 people crowded the Queen Charlotte community hall to witness another step towards unity and co-operation on the islands, Heather Ramsay writes. The Village of Queen Charlotte is now the fourth island community to sign the Protocol Agreement with the Council of the Haida Nation. Port Clements, Masset and Regional District Area D (unincorporated areas on Graham Island including Tow Hill, Tlell, Miller Creek and more) are already signatories. Queen Charlotte Mayor Carol Kulesha welcomed the hereditary and elected chiefs, leaders and members of the public from all communities to the feast and celebration on Tuesday (Nov. 21) She noted the village is not yet a year-old, but many who took part in that inaugral meeting, were now once again witnessing an historic event. She said communities need to work together for the betterment of the residents and she looks forward to the growing relationship between Queen Charlotte and the Haida communities. Signing the document symbolized “a hand held out in friendship,” she said. CHN president Guujaaw called the signifigance of the event “simple yet, complicated.” Simple because all people are essentially the same and need the same things to be happy, and complicated because the Haida have been working so long and have had to overcome so many obstacles to have a say in the way lands are managed on Haida Gwaii. “We are now getting to the position where we are making a difference,” he said, noting about half of the lands are in protective holding pattern and the logging levels have also been cut in half. “This is in part because of the fight, but in part because we are running out of trees,” he said. “I hate to admit that. I’d rather say we’ve been beating them back.” The protocol signing does not mean an end to disagreements within and among communitites, he added. Guujaaw reflected on the recent conflict over the naming of the main street in Queen Charlotte as an example of how islanders fight among ourselves. “It seems the better people know each other, the more things they find to fight about,” he said with a smile. Guujaaw also gave a small tribute to Dale Lore, former mayor of Port Clements who refused to be left out of discussions about resources on the islands. “You are not being left out, mainly because of that little man,” he said. Guujaaw then recognized Kevin Borserio, the man who initiated the idea of naming the main road through town Daajing.giids Way, and asked him to speak. “Few people outside our culture have learned Haida,” said Guujaaw, of Mr. Borserio’s work with the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program. Mr. Borserio made a statement in Haida and then translated for the audience. He said the communities of Haida Gwaii must not stand alone. “For two cultures to really understand each other, we need to be able to look each other in the eye and smell each others breath,” he said. He received a standing ovation from the elders at SHIP and many others. The event was emceed by John Farrell and Nika Collison. In light of the human remains recently unearthed in Queen Charlotte, Ms Collison explained a bit of history about Daajing.giids, the Haida village that once extended between the Visitor Information Centre and the Community Centre. “It’s always good to know about the place that you live and I hope you carry that with you,” she told people in the hall. Mr. Farrell reminded people of another event that brought people to the hall as witnesses in the year 2000. “It was again about unity,” he said, and spoke of those who met at the dryland sort and marched to the Ministry of Forests office to show the lack of confidence islanders felt about how the forests were being managed. He reminded people that hereditary leaders in Skidegate said at the time that it was the first time they had been invited to the hall. In the months following this demonstration, the protocol agreement was first drafted. Irene Mills and Councillor Gladys Noddin read the document out loud to the audience. The Skidegate performance group Hltaaxuulang Guud Ad K’aaju (Friends Together Singing) performed songs and dances at the event.
Speakers included Chief Skidegate Dempsey Collinson, Gidkun, Chief Allan Wilson, Skidegate Band chief councillor Willard Wilson, Frank Collison for Old Massett chief councillor, regional district directors Travis Glasman and Ian Hetman and mayors Cory Delves and Barry Pages. Gidkun said that without the support of the other communities and the loggers union the CHN might not have been able to convince the courts that there was merit to the land claim. “Sometimes we think there is trouble between our communities, but it generally washes over. Both side do not want trouble. They look at their own thoughts and decide they would rather be friends again,” he said. Chief Allan Wilson said that Haida Gwaii is being watched and judged by the world and the protocol signing makes a big statement. “Haida Gwaii is going to be front and centre. It’s going to be powerful because of this,” he said. Skidegate Band chief councillor Willard Wilson presented Mayor Kulesha with a carved halibut hook. He said with the help of the $78-million in the Gwaii Trust fund, the communities will be able to do a lot together. “Once we start working together, we will be unstoppable,” he said.