More than 500 people gathered in Skidegate the evening of March 19 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Chief Gaathlaay, Watson Pryce, in one of the largest celebrations ever held on island.
Guests came from all over North America to honour Chief Gaathlaay, from Maine to Cuba to California. Speakers included former MP Jim Fulton and environmentalist David Suzuki.
Chief Gaathlaay addressed the assembled guests at the end of the night. At the time he was born, there were no cars on the islands, no planes, no electricity. He is the last known person to have paddled to Skung Gwaii, having travelled there at the age of four with his parents in a canoe.
Throughout his long life, Chief Gaathlaay worked as a logger, a fisherman, and played a vital role in the Lyell Island blockade which resulted in the protection of the Gwaii Haanas area.
The Skidegate Band council honoured Chief Gaathlaay with 100 red roses. The elders from the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program sang Happy Birthday in Haida, and his clan, the Ts’aahl eagle clan, delivered cake to all the guests.
The Skidegate children’s dance group did a beautiful performance, and Percy Williams played some songs which brought tears to the eyes of many attending the celebration.
(with info from Roberta Aiken)
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