Village of Queen Charlotte Mayor Kris Olsen says council will respectfully and diligently explore a request to change the municipality’s name to a Haida place name, but the process could take years.
“We have to go slow,” says Olsen. “No decision has been made yet. The elders have brought forward the name and we still have to have a discussion with the Hereditary Chiefs.”
Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP) elders and staff submitted a formal request to Queen Charlotte council April 28 to begin the discussion with the hereditary chiefs of Xaayda Gwaay and the Council of the Haida Nation.
Olsen notes that within the modern-day boundaries of Queen Charlotte, there are many ancient village sites, each with their own place names. Long before any decisions are made thorough discussions will need to take place with all stakeholders.
Council discussed the matter at a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month.
Olsen says he and council are happy to explore the request, as the restoration of place names is identified in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as important steps to reconciliation.
While the village explores the possibility, Olsen says there are other measures the village can take in the short term to promote the revitalization of the Haida language. This includes flying a CHN flag at the village offices alongside the flag of the Village of Queen Charlotte, and adding Haida interpretations to the English street signage.
Staff will begin looking at the cost involved and bring the conversation to SHIP elders. Olsen says he doesn’t believe the municipality should cover those costs.
Olsen says a conversation will also begin with non-Haida residents of the municipality right away.
“It’s pretty exciting in some ways. We can have an open conversation about this in our community, and be able to have it in a way that doesn’t separate us and pull us apart. Too often outside forces have worked against us. So the idea here is to not separate our community but bring it together with understanding.
“This is 2019, it’s the year of indigenous languages here in Canada. The more Haida that’s spoken, and the more available it is, that’s all good.”