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Haida Gwaii

Field notes from the Haida Gwaii Potlatch: Why government and industry should take heed of Indigenous governance decisions

14 September, 2016

I was honoured to have been invited to witness this historic potlatch, Raven Always Sets Things Right, hosted by the Yahgulaanaas/Janaas Raven Clan of Haida Gwaii. I visited Haida Gwaii for the first time just last year, and it left an indelible mark as a very special part of the world, as it does for most who are lucky enough to visit, so I was happy to return.

The potlatch was significant for a number of reasons. The primary work was to remove the hereditary chieftainships of two hereditary chiefs. The hereditary chiefs had signed a support letter for Enbridge’s request for a deadline extension on one of the 209 conditions of its approval in June 2014. No one I spoke to could remember hearing about an act as serious as removing a chieftainship before, although the possibility of the removal of a name is part of the chief naming ceremony itself.  The removal of the hereditary chieftainships in this potlatch needs to be understood by industry and governments as a legitimate and powerful response that undermines the commonly used tactic of cherry picking individuals to support their projects and “divide and conquer” communities.

 

Mug shot: One of the gifts from the potlatch – “Raven Always Sets Things Right”

Yo ho wee
Yo ha wee yo wee yah
Hey hi yo
Ha wee ah wee yah wee yah
Hey hi yo ha wee
Ah wee ah-ha
Ah wee-ee ah wee yah

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