Disclaimer: Hi my name is Anna (she/her), and I’m the author of this blogpost. Before you start reading, there were a couple things I just wanted to clarify. Firstly, I am speaking from a position of privilege as someone who is white and a settler on Treaty 13 land. I do not identify as an Indigenous person, but use my writing in efforts to educate on issues that disproportionately affect marginalized communities. I acknowledge the struggles of the Haida Nation and stand in solidarity with them on these issues, with the hope that this blogpost will raise awareness to some of the issues they face, as well as bring attention to voices speaking out about these issues. Throughout this piece I have provided links to statements coming directly from the Haida Nation, so you can truly see how these issues are affecting their people. I do this because my job is to amplify the voices already taking action, not to testify about these issues that I haven’t directly faced myself. I am not speaking on behalf of any groups mentioned within this blogpost, I am simply writing to acknowledge the injustices against these groups and to spread awareness with the hope of generating change on a political and environmental front in the hopes of creating a better future for all.
Haida Nation is made up of “all people of Haida ancestry” (1). The people of the Haida Nation have traditionally occupied the land of southern Alaska, as well as the archipelago Haida Gwaii (1). The Haida Nation has exclusive rights to the resources of Haida Gwaii, for both food and business purposes in accordance with the Laws of Nature from the Haida Nation’s legislation (1). Prior to contact with settlers, there were tens of thousands of members of the Haida Nation. Interaction with settlers brought diseases like smallpox and typhoid that killed many of the people of Haida Nation, leaving the population at approximately 600 (1). “Gaw Old Massett at the north end of Graham Island and HlGaagilda Skidegate at the south end” are the main areas of the islands that make up the Haida Gwaii where the Haida Nation resides, ultimately making up only about “half of the 5000 people living on the islands” (1).
Currently, the Haida Nation is existing in a state of emergency (SOE) due to COVID-19 (2). In order to maintain their safety, a multitude of restrictions were incorporated into their SOE response, including the prohibition of “non-resident travel” to the Islands that make up Haida Gwaii and the subsequent closing of some fishing lodges (2). As B.C. moves into Phase 3 of the COVID-19 response and restrictions are lifted, the Haida Nation has maintained the prohibition of tourism visits, although not all fishing lodges have followed these regulations (2). In a statement on July 21st, the Haida Hereditary Chief’s Council condemned the Queen Charlotte Lodge’s (QCL) disregard for regulations implemented by the Haida Nation to protect their coastlines and land (3). The full statement can be read here. The announcement includes statements about years of QCL disregarding regulations regarding fishing lodges and the Haida Gwaii, causing the QCL to have “more infractions than any other operation” (3). More specific grievances from the Haida Hereditary Chef’s Council towards the QCL include the use of a “catch and release” system, which interferes with Haida conservation efforts for salmon, halibut, and rock cod, as well as trespassing into restricted areas of the Haida Gwaii. The most recent issue reported has been a lack of compliance with Haida Nation SOE protocols to protect the members of the Haida Nation from COVID-19 (3). A video was recently shared to CBC by the Gaandlee Guu Jaalang, a Haida group, which showed QCL fishing vessels trespassing into Haida territory, speeding through the water, disregarding the shutdown of the Haida Gwaii due to their declared SOE, as well as posing risk to the members of the Haida Nation fishing in the water (4). The video can be accessed here.
The QCL’s complete disregard of the Haida Nation’s traditional territory, traditional practices (including fishing), and their territorial shutdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is unsafe and disrespectful, as the Haida Nation has revoked any welcome to their territory that the QCL thought it possessed (3). Following the statement from Haida Hereditary Chief’s Council, alongside support from others, this document will be updated to report on the response from QCL, and if actions will be changed to align with the rights of the Haida Nation.