Haida Gwaii news makers of 2019: Part 2

Haida Gwaii news makers of 2019: Part 2

Haida Gwaii Observer’s Year in Review 2019: July - December

Haida Gwaii news makers of 2019: Part 1


LA fourth whale has washed up on ton North Beach, east of Masset, making it the eighth dead whale to arrive on B.C.’s coast at the time.
A total of 171 grey whales had been found dead on the west coast from Mexico to Alaska as of July. (photo Archie Stocker Sr. / Haida Gwaii Observer)

Totem poles returned home to Haida Gwaii

Two monumental poles came home in July after the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) and UBC’s Museum of Anthropology returned them to Haida Gwaii.

The cultural artifacts ended up in Vancouver by being taken, appropriated, stolen, or sold throughout the years.

“It’s taken over 20 years of the Haida Nation knocking on the doors of mainstream museums. It’s taken over $1 million in cash, sweat, labour, in kind contributions to bring home and rebury just over 500 of our ancestors.

“Now our Nation is focusing on our belongings held in museums. How we found ourselves in this position, why we do this work, and where it is taking us (all) is a story that should be known and never be forgotten,” Nika Collison, co-chair of the Haida Repatriation Committee and executive director at the Haida Gwaii Museum, stated.

For decades, a number of sacred and culturally-sensitive belongings from the Haida Nation have been held in the City of Vancouver’s collection at MOV.

READ MORE: Two monumental poles return home to Haida Gwaii


Connor Miller competes in the crosscut. (photo Archie Stocker Sr. / Haida Gwaii Observer)

Eagle injuries mount in Massett

Bad habits from the public contributed to a number of eagles becoming injured on Haida Gwaii in August. Four bald eagles were sent to the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) in Ladner for treatment after succumbing to a number of injuries. All four suffered their injuries in the Masset area. Leila Riddall of the Animal Helpline in Masset sais that all the eagles were hurt in one general area of the community that is well known for being a dumping ground for waste that attracts the bird.

People offering food to eagles in hopes of seeing them or grabbing a picture are also contributing to the problem. The first eagle was injured after attempting to scavenge in an area where fish and deer carcasses are often dumped. It was electrocuted attempting to reach the remains. A second eagle was electrocuted in the same area. A case of lead poisoning occurred on Aug. 4 after an eagle ate tainted garbage, while five days later an eagle was discovered with a fractured ulna and radius, possibly from being hit by a car.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii eagles recovering in Ladner care facility

Haida film hits national stage

“Imagine a world without art. Now imagine if you were the one to help bring it back.”

These two lines, delivered by an animated Haida Spirit in the Haida language, capture the essence of Christopher Auchter’s new documentary film Now Is The Time, which was selected in August for viewing at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

In the 16-minute short documentary, Auchter revisits Old Massett on the day of Aug. 22, 1969, when the first totem pole raising in more than a century on Haida Gwaii took place. Both Eagle and Raven clan members worked together to accomplish the task.

Auchter was introduced to the idea while in discussions with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) about an upcoming project. The NFB informed him that Haida Nation member Barbara Wilson had an idea for the 50th anniversary of the pole raising.

READ MORE: Haida story headed to the international stage

Haida Gwaii to be hit hardest by climate change

A federal government geoscientist has developed fresh maps of coastlines showing where flooding and erosion caused by climate change are likely to inflict maximum damage this century. Haida Gwaii is one of several coastlines outlined on the map expected to see a sea level rise over 0.70-metres change before 2099. The mapping effort led by Gavin Manson has taken into account factors like the disappearance of sea ice, rising waves and the makeup of the shoreline.

READ MORE: Mapping of Canadian coasts shows Haida Gwaii to be hit hardest by climate change this century


A foot is used for scale in this photo of a lion’s mane jellyfish, one of 50 discovered between Masset and Old Masset last week. Don’t be too alarmed by a mass beaching of lion’s mane jellyfish on the northern shores of Graham Island next season.
The world’s largest jellyfish species was found dying by the dozens along the coast from Old Massett to Tow Hill.
While mortality events like this may be rare to Haida Gwaii, it is a seasonal phenomena in many parts of the northern hemisphere, including B.C.’s mainland coast, said jellyfish specialist Mackenzie Neale, a marine biologist and director of animal care with Vancouver Aquarium. (photo Sylvia Lutumailagi)

Sportfishing lodges set to shut down

HaiCo/Haida Tourism announced it will would longer be operating fishing lodges on Haida Gwaii effective immediately. Its Westcoast Resorts and Englefield Bay Lodge were closed as a result, at the end of this year’s fishing season. Candace Dennis, CEO of Haida Enterprise Corporation, said the company’s future undertakings will “be more aligned with the values of our Haida ownership.” Dennis said a new tourism strategy for Haida Tourism will be unveiled in the coming months.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii sportfishing lodges set to shut down

SG̱aan Ḵinghlas-Bowie Seamount protected

The Haida Nation and the government of Canada announced a Co-Management plan on Tuesday to provide protection for the marine wilderness of the SGaan Kinghlas–Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area.

The Bowie Seamount, known in the Haida language as SGaan Kinghlas — meaning “Supernatural Being Looking Outward” — is a massive underwater volcano that lies around 180 km west of Haida Gwaii. At its tip the volcano is just 24 metres below the surface, making it the shallowest seamount in Canadian waters. However, the base drops to a depth of more than 3,000 metres below sea level. The area features an abundance of marine life, including rockfish, whales, sea lions, anemones, sea stars, and rare corals and sponges.

READ MORE: SG̱aan Ḵinghlas-Bowie Seamount marine area receives renewed protection

Students take to Queen Charlotte streets demanding climate justice

More than 100 students and local residents marched in Queen Charlotte in October, demanding climate justice. Students from GidGalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary School led the charge in conjunction with the Global Climate Strike movement.

“We’re doing this for our future. If we’re not doing these things, we don’t have a future,” said Greta Romas, co-organizer of Green Leaders, a student-led environmental group.

The students made demands of the Village of Queen Charlotte and local leaders related to climate justice and a move toward sustainable living on Haida Gwaii.

READ MORE: Hundreds march the streets of Queen Charlotte seeking climate justice now, led by students


The Skidegate Co-op held their grand opening event at the end of September, and the new store is already bustling with customers. Residents gathered in the rain for the event, which featured speeches and plenty of entertainment. A local Haida dance group helped the crowd forget all about the weather, as did a hamburger stand set up by the Co-op. The storefront features totem poles carved by Skidegate artist Garner Moody, ensuring a traditional Haida style will accompany the sleekness of the new grocery store. (Archie Stocker Sr. / Haida Gwaii Observer)

BC court sides with loggers

A logging company on Haida Gwaii now has the green light to cut down trees in a forest that the Haida Nation has deemed of significant cultural importance. O’Brien and Fuerst Logging won an injunction in court against Haida Gwaii protesters who had been trying to halt logging activity in the Tlaga Gaawtlaas Blue Jackets area near Masset.

The decision came down in B.C. Supreme Court last Thursday morning under the direction of Justice Ronald A. Skolrood, and is seen as a blow to activists, who had set up a blockade to prevent access to the site.

“The logging of the Bluejacket area would be a blatant act of disrespect and disregard of Haida title, sovereignty and jurisdiction, as well as a violation of provincial legislation,” Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, president of the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN), said.

The area contains a large supply of cedar trees, an invaluable resource for Haida carvers who use the wood for carvings and other art work. Haida artist Robert Davidson, who carved the first totem pole to be raised in more than 100 years in 1969 from a tree found in the area, had filed an affidavit in B.C. Supreme Court hoping to stop the logging.

READ MORE: Logging moves forward as court rules against Haida Gwaii protesters

Bachrach’s claims Skeena-Bulkley as Liberals to form minority government

Taylor Bachrach will be headed to Ottawa as the new MP for the Skeena-Bulkley Valley after winning the riding by more than 3,000 votes over his next closest competitor on Monday. Bachrach has served as the mayor of Smithers since 2011.

It will be the first time since 2004 that the region — the largest geographically in B.C., and seventh-largest geographically in Canada — has been represented by someone other than long-time NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who decided not to run this election.

The area remains orange however, as the NDP once again ran away with the Northwest B.C. riding.

Bachrach managed to hold off his main competitor, Claire Rattée of the Conservative Party, defeating her with an unofficial final total of 16,670 to 13,637. Bachrach earned 40.9 per cent of the popular vote to Rattée’s 33.4 per cent.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii votes heavy for Bachrach


The 18th annual Christmas Social and Auction of the Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum was held in November.
Mr. Andrew Finnie was the live auctioneer of the evening. The museum was filled to the last seat and a lot of silent and live bids were made. (photo Archie Stocker Sr. / Haida Gwaii Observer)

Edenshaw joins national climate fight

A group of young people from across the country filled a suit against the Canadian government for not acting on climate change. The David Suzuki Foundation said the 15 youths have each suffered “specific, individualized injuries due to climate change.” The lawsuit alleges Ottawa is violating their rights to life, liberty and security of person under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of the plaintiffs grew up in Masset on the Haida Gwaii islands, Haana Edenshaw.

Growing up in an area so steeped in natural beauty, but also constantly under threat from climate change and human activity, gave Edenshaw perspective from a young age on the importance of protecting the land.

“I’ve always grown up with the reality of climate change and protesting ecological destruction. Joining my family and the Haida nation as stewards and protectors of our traditional land from logging, trophy hunting, those kind of things,” Edenshaw said.

READ MORE: Haida Gwaii youth joins federal climate lawsuit

Haida artist dies weeks before first solo show

Haida artist Carol Young died on surrounded by family in hospice care in Langley. She was 66. Young’s “warrior spirit” was hard to miss. It remains so.

When B.C.’s health care system seemed ready to fail her, Young made a ruckus until she got the help she desperately needed.

After speaking to Black Press, Young was able to see an oncologist, after which she received radiation and chemotherapy. But Young spent the 10 months between her cancer diagnosis and death calling for improvements to how the province treats cancer patients.

Young passed away just weeks before her first solo art show was set to open in Seattle.

READ MORE: Carol Young, an artist who fought for timely cancer treatment in Abbotsford, dies before first solo show


Skidegate village just opened their doors to a new Fields store, which is located in the old Co-op store beside the gas station. (photo Archie Stocker Sr. / Haida Gwaii Observer)

Province to scrap mouldy housing

Nearly one year after mold and moisture was found while assembling a 19-unit modular housing project at Queen Charlotte City, the provincial housing ministry has decided they can’t be repaired and, instead, will junk the units.

In a brief statement issued late Dec. 9, the ministry said it has “come to the decision that they can no longer pursue remediation of the existing modular units.”

“BC Housing is looking into all options for recovering additional costs related to both the investigation and replacing these units.”

A $5.7 million contract was let in 2018 to Atco Sustainable Communities to build, deliver and assemble the units in Queen Charlotte City as one of the more visible demonstrations on Haida Gwaii that the provincial government was moving to ease an acknowledged housing crisis.

But as the units were being assembled on the property at 135 Oceanview Drive, mold and water damage was discovered, leading Atco to halt the project and bring in a team of experts. A statement from Atco has yet to be forthcoming. But the provincial housing ministry indicated that once the damaged units are disposed of, it will “work with a new contractor to build new modular homes at the same location.”

Sandspit Inn receives temporary stay

Just weeks after Transport Canada announced that it would not renew its lease on the Sandspit Inn, it has agreed to leave the inn open until the end of September so the Sandspit Community Society (SCS) can honour their already signed contracts with clients for the upcoming season.

The Sandspit Inn is in a building that is owned by Transport Canada’s airport land and has been leased by the Sandspit Community Society since 2014.

READ MORE: Future of Sandspit Inn hangs in the balance, Transport Canada not renewing lease

READ MORE: Transport Canada to let Sandspit Inn run until September, SCS wants stable solution

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Year in Review