“When the stakes are your land and your culture losing is not an option. A people armed with the truth are a people with conviction.” – Guujaaw
In 1974, disputes began over the future of southern Moresby Island. The Rayonier logging company initiated a five-year plan to log Lyell Island. These unsustainable logging plans precipitated a public proposal to protect the South Moresby Wilderness Area. In 1985, the Haida Nation designated the area a Haida Heritage Site and a blockade by both Haida and non-Haida people was held on Lyell Island.
Four years earlier, the Haida Gwaii Watchmen program was created. Although the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation could not agree on who owned the land, they did agree that it should be protected for future generations. Then in 1993, the Gwaii Haanas Agreement was signed. The Gwaii Haanas Agreement is a nation-to-nation agreement that established a co-operative management body called the Archipelago Management Board (AMB) and outlines both nations’ commitment to preserve Gwaii Haanas for future generations, maintain the continuity of Haida culture, establish a marine protected area in the future, and states that there is no compromise of Haida legal rights and title to the land and sea. In 2010, the waters around Gwaii Haanas were protected federally when the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site was created.
This year, Gwaii Haanas is celebrating 25 years of being co-operatively managed. Since 1993, the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada have worked to protect the land and sea in Gwaii Haanas. Throughout the years there have been many triumphs and successes accomplished by the AMB including the Legacy Pole, a 42-foot monumental pole carved to honour the 20th anniversary of the Gwaii Haanas Agreement raised in 2013. The hot pools were lost, restored, and rebuilt at Gandll K’in Gwaay.yaay (Hotspring Island). The AMB also oversaw three major conservation and restoration projects: SGin Xaana Sdiihltl’lxa (Night Birds Returning), Llgaay gwii sdiihlda (Restoring Balance), and the Chiixuu Tll iinasdll (Nurturing Seafood to Grow). The Artists in Gwaii Haanas program has shared the beauty of Gwaii Haanas through exhibits on Haida Gwaii and across Canada. And of course, the Haida Gwaii Watchmen program continues to be the most commented-on experience in Gwaii Haanas.
Gwaii Haanas has also partnered with many local and national organizations including the Haida Gwaii Watchmen program, Skidegate Band Council, Old Masset Village Council, Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (S.H.I.P), Destination BC, Mount Moresby Adventure Camp, local schools, Indigenous Tourism BC, Destination Canada, and many universities.
“When our message this year reads ‘25 Years of Good People Working Together,’ to me that includes everybody,” said Jaadguusandlans, Natalie Fournier, a marketing and promotions officer who is a 17-year Gwaii Haanas employee.
“It’s not just about people who wear Parks Canada uniforms or people who work for the Council of the Haida Nation — although that is an extremely significant and important relationship — it’s also working hand in hand with tour operators, Haida Gwaii Watchmen. We are a net of people that care and have different perspectives and views and roles within Gwaii Haanas. It also includes researchers that come here and take their work away and spread that knowledge around the world. It is the people that come to Gwaii Haanas. This place can dramatically affect peoples lives and experiences,”
“Our visitors take their experiences back with them and that leads to further understanding why protected places are important for us as humans. That it will encourage other people to value protected places. It’s about being interconnected, how could we do anything that we do without the watchmen, the visitors, the researchers, the interpreters?”