Queen Charlotte picks new name for main road

  • Sep. 11, 2006 3:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-With 64 suggestions to choose from, Queen Charlotte council chose an unconventional way to get to a new name for the main thoroughfare that runs from Skidegate Landing to the graveyard.
What used to be known as Highway 33, and in some sections Third Avenue and Cemetary Road, will now be known as Daajing.giids Way. The word is the Skidegate Haida name for a village that used to be on the point where the community hall now stands.
Queen Charlotte resident Kevin Borserio, who suggested the name, told council members that “I would be honoured if the leaders of my community would select the name that would be an honour to bestow upon the Haida ancestors, the elders, and the CHN.”
The seven members of the public who attended the Sept. 5 council meeting were surprised to find out they had the final say in the decision.
Acting mayor Gladys Noddin explained the process. She told councillors to pick their 10 favourite choices from the list and circle them. Then staff would take the four lists out of the room to compile the top three picks by all councillors. These were to be brought back to the public, who would then vote on the new name.
“When is the deadline?” asked one of the audience members.
“Tonight,” Ms Noddin said.
Although the deadline had not been previously announced, this was not an issue, she said, because the renaming of Highway 33 was on the agenda and had been available for all to see.
The startled members of the public stirred as the councillors diligently surveyed their lists. Finally, Mr. Borserio asked if he could lobby for his suggestion.
As a 22-year resident of Queen Charlotte, he said the name Daajing.giids Way would be an appropriate honour to bestow upon the Haida.
“I am speaking on behalf of myself, and not for any Haida person,” he said, although the elders at the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program, where he works, had endorsed his coming to the meeting.
He said the name was recorded on a tape of Solomon Wilson speaking in 1972. The elders at SHIP determined the current spelling from that tape.
The literal translation of the words are Daajing = hat and giids = always. Colloquially, the word means always wearing a hat, which, as a playful aside, was thought to signify that it is always raining in Queen Charlotte.
He also noted that “way,” in Haida, means “to go,” so the name has a double meaning.
Leslie Johnson spoke in support of using a Haida name. “In Hawaii if there is a native name of a place, it is observed,” she said. “It is a legitimate thing to do to promote language.”
She also noted that Skidegate is putting up Haida street names and for Queen Charlotte to do so as well would be looking ahead.
When the tallying was done, the audience waited nervously for the top three councillor picks to be read aloud.
Charlotte Main, Inlet Drive and Queen Charlotte Drive were the choices given.
Not a single hand was raised.
So the next three names were read: Bearskin Boulevard, Gwaii Way and Daajing.giids Way.
The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the third choice.
“I think it is a good name,” said councillor Kris Olsen. “Whether or not we sign the protocol agreement, this is a good step.”
Ms Noddin asked the Observer to be clear about the process. “Council didn’t make the decision, the community did,” she said.
Mr. Borserio was pleased with the outcome. “Howaa to the leaders of the community.”
He also suggested holding an event that would act as a way to gift the name, as is often done in Haida society.
“I think we need to gift them in some way and that would further deepen the respect we give to the name and the Haida people.”
Ms. Johnson offered to write a proposal to Gwaii Trust for a “do.”
As for the surprising process, after the meeting these were the comments gathered by the Observer.
“I came to speak in favour of Daajing.giids but had no idea how they would make the decision,” said John Broadhead.
Kevin Gibson, whose address will now change from Cemetary Road to Daajing.giids Way, was pleased the road was given a Haida name.
“In relative terms, I attach a low importance to the question of what to name the road, because we have much more serious issues to decide,” he said.