(Haida Gwaii Observer/File photo)

School district recognizes Haida Gwaii languages, national anthem

Haida and English are now recognized by the Haida Gwaii school board as the two official languages of Haida Gwaii.

School trustees voted in favour of the new policy at the Tuesday, September 25, board meeting.

At the same time, trustees voted to officially recognize the Lyell Island song as Haida Gwaii’s national anthem, and to recognize that the school district operates on the territory of the Haida Nation.

“I think this is going to give the board a much better footing to start off with,” said Harmony Williams, chair of the school board.

Williams said the school board governance and other policy changes were three years in the making, adding that all changes were reviewed by the B.C. School Trustees Association and a lawyer who made sure they did not conflict with the B.C. School Act.

Copies of the final policy updates were not available at last Tuesday’s meeting, though earlier drafts were posted on the district website.

Williams highlighted some of the key changes, such as a note that new trustees can have a Haida elder or chief present when they give their oath of office.

Trustee Elizabeth Condrotte voted in favour of the policy update, after first suggesting the board wait until their October meeting when a final draft could be printed for the public.

Condrotte also suggested the policy should clarify what it means to recognize the two languages and national anthem.

“For example, will things be printed in both Haida and English? Is that how the recognition will happen?” Condrotte said. “The national anthem, will that be sung at the same time that O Canada is sung?”

Williams said the new policy is meant to be flexible, allowing future school trustees some room for interpretation.

“It’s going to be up to each board as a team to decide how they go about recognizing that,” she said.

“Recognizing the Lyell Island song as the official song of Haida Gwaii — I don’t know what that is going to look like for the next board, or 20 years down the road.

But the first step, acknowledging that Aboriginal title exists in the first place, or that there is a resurgence of culture on Haida Gwaii, is to recognize it.”

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