Submitted by Kate Alexander
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site
The Haida Gwaii Watchmen learned recently how to use interpretive techniques to engage visitors to the Haida village sites.
“Interpretation is any communication process designed to reveal meanings and relationships to our heritage to the public though first hand involvement with the site,” said our trainer Donna Hill, who is certified by Interpretation Canada.
Gwaii Haanas and the Haida Gwaii Watchmen organized the weekend workshop in Skidegate, Feb. 19-20, bringing Donna from Nanaimo to teach 17 of the Watchmen and several Visitor Information Centre and Gwaii Haanas staff. The Haida Gwaii Watchmen are hosts and guardians at SGang Gwaay, Hlk’yah llnagaay (Windy Bay), K’uuna llnagaay (Skedans), Gandl K’in Gwaayaay (Hotsprings Island) and T’aanuu.
Diane Brown (Gwaaganad), a Haida language teacher from Skidegate, opened the workshop with a prayer. Diane, who was one of those arrested in the standoff on Lyell Island back in 1986, reminded the younger Watchmen just how precious Gwaii Haanas is to the Haida.
“These people risked getting two years’ jail time”, she said. One of them was her father, 80 years old at that time, with “plastic hips and knees”.
After this inspiring speech, we learned some techniques for communicating this great love and awe to Gwaii Haanas’s visitors. For instance, interpretation means relating facts about the site to concepts familiar to our visitors – so we analyzed some of our typical “audiences”, kayakers, sail boaters, and so on. On the second day, we planned guided walks around our chosen sites. The room went quiet, with everyone absorbed in thinking how to structure their tour. Finally, we each had a chance to practice.
“The training was awesome,” said Watchmen Coordinator Ali Pearson. “I’ll definitely invite Donna back to train the other Watchmen who are away in school.”
For me, a new Gwaii Haanas staff person, the best part of the weekend was meeting the Watchmen and sensing just how dedicated and keen to learn they are.