Giindajin Haawasti Guujaaw
Guujaaw is of the Raven clan of the Haida Nation. He was born in Masset
on the northern part of Haida Gwaii. He is born of the Gakyaals Kiiqawaay
Skedans Ravens like his mother. His father, Chiits Gitnaii, is an Eagle
from the Yakoun River.
Guujaaw means drum, a name formally given him at a potlatch at Kiusta.
Guujaaw began going to the land at a young age, digging cockles, picking
seaweed with his mother, hunting and fishing with his father and trapping
with his uncle. In his infancy he spent summers with his great-grandmother
who lived to be 114 years old. She was a singer who taped over 100 songs
and became the greatest influence on his life.
Elders also played an important role in Guujaaw's growth and understanding
of the world. It was through this engagement with their wisdom and the old
ways that Guujaaw undertook journeys around the Islands by row-boat and
canoes, often alone. He knows the ways of the Islands as well as anyone.
Guujaaw has worked with the Council of the Haida Nation for the past twenty
years to secure the protection of some areas of the Islands as well as pushing
for more care and sustainable use of Island resources. He was in the forefront
of the fight for the protection of Gwaii Haanas (South Moresby) and took
part in the blockades of logging operations at Lyell Island in the mid 1980s.
Today, he is a member of the Archipelago Management Board which co-manages,
with the Government of Canada Gwaii Haanas.
He has been involved in developing the policies and strategies of the Council
of the Haida Nation, and has served as the negotiator for the Council of
the Haida Nation and worked to develop guidelines and policies towards the
protection of living Haida archaeological sites (Culturally Modified Trees).
He has held the official position of 'Firekeeper' for the Hereditary Chiefs
of Haida Gwaii.
Guujaaw has been a regular contributor to Haida Laas - the Journal of the
Haida Nation. He is a dedicated teacher working to pass songs and dances
on to the next generation within the broader context of Haida culture.
His love for the land and understanding of the vulnerability of life has
put him in the position of devoting much of his adulthood to fighting the
forces that are changing the land.
"All the we say is ours is of Haida Gwaii. This is our lot, our heritage,
our life . . . and one of the world's great cultures."
Today Guujaaw continues to balance carving with his many other roles which
include; political activist, teacher, medicinal practitioner, historian,
Following is a brief survey and landmarks of some of
- 1968 Education: enrolled in a student carving program hosted by Rufus
Moody to encourage young argillite carvers. This kicked off a lifetime of
studies of Haida artifacts and culture.
- 1972 Performance: became the principal singer for the Kadsnee Dancers,
a dance group lead by Claude Davidson.
Architectural commission: designed and constructed a longhouse in the Haida
style at Kiusta, Haida Gwaii.
Commission: made several masks for ceremonial use of the Kaadsnee and Skidegate
- 1973 Exhibition: an argillite sculpture titled Woman Washing Hair
was purchased for the Legacy Collection of the Royal British Columbia Museum
at Victoria, British Columbia.
- 1976 Performance: made a skin drum with a painted bear design which
he still uses today and has become a symbol of his work as a dancer, singer,
political activist, and artist.
- 1977 Commission: assisted Bill Reid with the carving of the 17.4 metre
pole which was a gift to the village of Skidegate and now stands at the
Skidegate Band Council building.
- 1979: Commission: assisted Bill Reid with the carving of the Raven
and the First Man, a seven foot sculpture which was commissioned privately
and donated to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia
in honor of the grand opening.
- 1980 Architectural commission: designed and built a longhouse in the
Haida style which is used as a carving shed at Skidegate, Haida Gwaii.
- 1981 Performance: performed with the Squamish Dance Group under the
leadership of Simon Baker at the Kobi World's Fair in Japan.
- 1984 Research project: considered to be at the forefront of the canoe
building renaissance which began with a ten-year search of the forests of
Haida Gwaii for old and unfinished canoes, and Culturally Modified Trees.
Interviewed elders and applied historical theories and practices in the
making of contemporary canoes.
Documentary: featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Islands at
the Edge hosted by David Suzuki as part of the series The Nature of Things.
Publication: The Cedar, illustrated by Arlene Golson, published by Wedge
Publishers, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia.
- 1985 Performance: official unveiling of the bronze Killerwhale by
Bill Reid in front of the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park, Vancouver,
Performance: singer and dancer with a multi-nation dance group at Expo '85
in Osaka, Japan
Built scale model for Bill Reid's Loo Taas canoe.
Architectural commission: designed and built a longhouse in the Haida style
at Windy Bay, Lyell Island, Haida Gwaii.
- 1986 Documentary: Islands of the People, British Broadcasting Corporation
production documenting Guujaaw's work and travels on Haida Gwaii.
- 1987 Publication: featured in National Geographic, July, page 102.
Architectural Project: Three longhouses at Rediscovery, Taalung slung
- 1988 Architectural project: designed and built three longhouses in
the Haida style at Taalung Slung, Haida Gwaii
Architectural commission: designed second longhouse at Windy Bay, Haida
- 1989 Lecture and performance: Altamira Forum Conference on Environment
and Tourism, Brazil.
- 1990 Publication: Chronicles of Pride - Journey of Discovery, Patricia
Logie, published by Datselig Enterprise Ltd. Calgary, Alberta.
Publication: featured in Paradise Won - The Struggle for South Moresby by
Elizabeth May, published by McCelland and Stewart.
- 1991 Documentary: featured in On the Road Again - Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation hosted by Wayne Ronstad on drumming and dancing in the Haida
- 1992 Performance: unveiling of the Black Canoe - Spirit of Haida Gwaii,
by Bill Reid at the Canadian Embassy, Washington, DC.
Commission: Gagiiht mask, private collection, Alaska
Architectural commission: designed and constructed a longhouse in the Haida
style at Windy Bay, Lyell Island, Haida Gwaii.
Presentation: 6' totem pole carved by master carver Masimoto in Hokaido,
Performance: featured on CBC's Ideas. Gwaii Haanas: How non-violence works.
- 1993 Publication: featured in Keepers of the Totem, Time Life Book
Performance: Sesame Street - Guujaaw and the Higagalda Dancers performed
on the television show with a documentary showing old canoe sites in the
forest of Haida Gwaii.
Commission: carved the 6-metre Sea Grizzly pole, private collection, Ontario
Architectural project: designed primary dwelling in a Haida style.
- 1994 Performance: raising of totem pole carved by Reg Davidson at
Publication: Gathering at Ainumashi - The Land of the Ainu: A message from
indigenous people of the world (page 204), published by Eikoh Educational
and Cultural Institute.
Commission: Carved a 2-metre pole with master carver Masimito, Japan.
- 1995 Publication: Skidegate Haida Myths and Histories, wrote foreword
for book of short stories.
Presentation: the First International Forum on Nature and Human Kind in
the Age of Environmental Crisis - International Japanese Centre for Environmental
Studies, Kyoto, Japan.
Performance: raising of totem pole carved by Jim Hart at San Francisco,
- 1996 Publication: The Great Canoes by David Neel, wrote article The
History and Building of Canoes.
- 1997 Commission: 28' totem pole commissioned by the Government of
Canada for presentation to the people of Indonesia. Pole raising ceremony
by Guujaaw, Robert Davidson, Terri-Lynn Williams, Simon Dick, Jalun, and