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Daajing Giids: B.C. approves restoration of ancestral community name in Haida Gwaii

Daajing Giids will be reinstated to replace the name Queen Charlotte
Gaagwiis (Jason Alsop), president of the Haida Nation, welcomed attendees during an announcement about Queen Charlotte restoring the Haida village name Daajing Giids. (Photo: supplied)

Daajing Giids, the ancient Haida name, is officially being restored as the village title for what was formally Queen Charlotte effective immediately, the province announced on July 13.

“To be clear for everyone’s knowledge and understanding, the restoration of this ancestral name, Daajing Giids, is the first in B.C.’s history that we are aware of,” Nathan Cullen, Minister of Municipal Affairs said.

Gaagwiis (Jason Alsop), president of the Haida Nation, acknowledged the years of work it has taken to get to this point.

“It’s a great opportunity to come together and celebrate people working together to make it right,” he said.

The province’s approval was the last step in the process, formalizing the community that stretches along Graham Island’s southern coast as the Village of Daajing Giids (pronounced “daw-jean geeds”).

“I recognize that the name of local government is important to everybody, and we will spend our time in the next weeks and months when I visit, and the conversations that we’ll have, to learn from the leadership on Haida Gwaii because there are many other communities knocking on the door asking the questions about their name and the histories and how those names were given and in some cases imposed upon communities,” Cullen said.

The Village Council of Daajing Giids, unanimously voted in favour of the change during a regular council meeting on May 16. They then had to pass a request to Cullen, which he brought to the provincial cabinet for approval.

Premier John Horgan and the cabinet of B.C. “wholeheartedly” endorsed the recommendation for a name change, Cullen said.

In March, the province released the Declaration Act Action Plan, a report outlining 89 actions for government ministries to implement recommendations in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“Part of this work from my ministry’s behalf is supporting the review of local government names,” Cullen said.

In the case of Daajing Giids, the name restoration process started on April 28, 2019 when the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (S.H.I.P.) sent village council a letter and petition requesting they take back their name and reinstate the Indigenous name.

The Haida Nation has been working toward restoring place names for a long time, but their contact with the village in 2019 sparked the first conversations for place name restoration at the municipal level.

“It was really important that we sought wise counsel before we made this historic decision,” Kris Olsen, mayor of Daajing Giids said.

“I am so proud of our community and all the residents who have made this happen. The Skidegate Haida Immersion Program elders asked us to make it right and we strive to do our best.”

During the joyful announcement of the name change on July 13, Gaagwiis shared a verse:

“Daajing Giids! Out of respect for the Chiefs and the High Ladies.

Such a civic duty. Under the watchful eyes of sleeping beauty.

Arise from a deep slumber. Reconnection with an old lover.

Stoke the flames of the ancient place names.

So many great dames, to bring the fame.

Heal from the shame. A fresh start for all the new babies.

Creek ladies rejoice, when the salmon come home.

We’ve all come so far from the foam …”

Cullen couldn’t comment on how many other communities might follow suit in reinstating Indigenous place names but said he wouldn’t be surprised if more requests start coming in.

“There are some incredibly problematic names that are throughout the province,” he added.

“We’ll continue as a province to work with the Haida and the settler community and all others to advance reconciliation. In a place that has always been, from my perspective, the lead, not just for British Columbia, not just for Canada, but the entire world and peoples coming together.”

READ MORE: Village of Queen Charlotte votes to restore ancestral Haida name

 Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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