Queen Charlotte council will discuss a recent request of changing the municipality’s name to Daajing Giids Llnagaay.
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.
About 70 signatories to the letter ask to respectfully give back the name to the provincial government, and restore the ancient Haida name of the area on which the modern village sits.
Village CAO Lori Wiedeman says council and staff have already been using the Haida name more frequently in recent years.
“Council has said that what [SHIP] is asking for is a discussion, and that sounds fair enough. Council is willing to go into that discussion with an open mind and see what could be done.”
The matter is on the village’s agenda for its Committee of the Whole meeting June 10.
Kevin Borserio, an educator with SHIP, says name changes like this greatly facilitates the revitalization of the Haida language.
“When the place names are of the land of the Haida people, where this language came from, it’s in people’s consciousness —they’re able to see it more, they’re going to speak it more, they’re going to learn it more.”
As a non-Haida, Borserio says in the past couple of years he’s also heard more young people from Queen Charlotte refer to themselves as being from Daajing Giids.
“It’s coming up more and more. With the pole raising at the hospital and the renaming of the high school, things are slowly changing linguistically back onto the landscape from where this language came from.”
SHIP has not sent similar requests to the more northern municipalities of Port Clements and Masset as the Skidegate dialect is limited to the extreme south of Graham Island.
If successful, the Village of Queen Charlotte’s name change will mirror the return of the archipelago’s former name, Queen Charlotte Islands, so named in 1787 by George Dixon, a fur trader and captain of the vessel Queen Charlotte, named for the wife of King George the III.
In 2010 that name was given back to the Crown; it was written on a piece of paper, placed in a bentwood box and handed to then-BC Premier Gordon Campbell, who flew up for the day for the special ceremony. “Haida Gwaii always was. Haida Gwaii always will be,” Campbell said.
– with files from Jeff King
Haida Gwaii Observer
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