Why is this photo so important? The people of Skidegate Village gathered for this photo (circa approx. 1886-1890), by a missionary in order to commemorate the last time they would be allowed to wear their ceremonial regalia. After this, the cultural property was taken away.
This photo hits extra hard because my 3x-great grandmother Jeannie and 2x Great grandmother Elizabeth are shown here (front row, far left). Haida are a Matrilineal society that pass names, titles, songs, dances and prerogatives through the mothers line. These are the women whose lineage runs through my veins.
Remarkably, Jeannie had been living down south around Tacoma Washington, like many Haida’s had been know to do during that time. (Haida’s were known to have seasonal villages as far south as the Puget Sound area). Her brother George Young paddled by canoe to bring her and her children back to Haida Gwaii because they were the last remaining lineage holders of our Clan. Had he not returned them home, our Clan would have passed to history. But they arrived in Skidegate to a rapidly changing landscape - as you saw from our last post of all the totem poles in our village being cut down and hauled away in just over a decade. And here they sit - marking the last occasion the village was allowed to don their cultural property.
Because of Government imposed laws, Residential Schools, and Religion the culture lay dormant within our clan.
In our culture, birth order is the key to how titles, names, rights and prerogatives get passed down.
On June 24, my brother Jesse and daughter Marlo will be opening their exhibit at the Haida Gwaii Museum. To celebrate this occasion, as well as to conduct my traditional marriage ceremony, our Clan will be feasting for the first time in written record (well over 150 years) the following day, June 25th 2022.
Leave a comment