Our Process
The Journey
Our Learning
Cultural Treasures
Respecting Our Ancestors
End of Mourning Ceremony
Contact and Contributions

The idea of the butterfly was brought to our attention by the
Late Margaret Hewer. The butterfly represents the messenger
of the departed souls. It is also said to be a symbol of the traveling
Spirits, those departed and misplaced that are wandering about.
The design was created by the Late Brad Collinson and adopted
by our committee as our logo.

Photo: courtesy of CMC

In August 2000, a delegation of twenty-four plus Haida traveled to Hull Quebec, where they were joined by many relatives and friends from the area to repatriate the remains of one hundred and forty-eight Haida ancestors from the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC). These ancestors, originated from villages all over Haida Gwaii: Cumshewa, Skidegate, Gust Island, Honna River, Massett, New Massett, Queen Charlotte, Rose Point, Selwyn Inlet, Skedans, Skungonah Cave, T’aanuu, Tian, “Yakan” and Yaku, as well as ancestors whose final resting places were not documented when taken. The remains were taken from their final resting place on Haida Gwaii between 1897 and 1968, by anthropologists and other “collectors” such as Charles F. Newcombe, T. Deasy, C. Harrison, H. I. Smith, W. Newcombe, G. Balfour, Marius Barbeau and A. du Menil and Dr. Bell. Approximately one-third of the ancestors were removed by George MacDonald from Gust Island, which is a burial island. MacDonlad obtained permission from the Skidegate Band Council to remove these ancestors as a form of protecton, because logging on the island was desecrating the graves, and at that time, there was no legislation governing the desecrataion of burial sites due to development.

The CMC has over twelve hundred treasures attributed to the Haida. When we were there, we were able to view hundreds of pieces, and we were able to use quite a few musical instruments and ceremonial pieces in our dance performance, including a bentwood box drum, a chief’s staff, and a copper. We also paddled the Red Raven canoe (a fiberglass replica of Bill Reid’s fifty foot Haida war canoe, the Lootaas) down the Ottawa River. What was really amazing about the canoe ride was that as we were paddling, we saw a plume of smoke off in the distance, rising up from a small island. As we got closer, we saw teepees. We paddled towards the shore, and natives from different areas of eastern Canada were there. It was a cultural camp where First nations could come together. The people that were there gathered at the shore, watching us as we paddled towards their camp. When we were close, we sang a Haida song from our canoe, pounding our paddles against the canoe gunnels as a drum and asked permission to come ashore. They sang and invited us ashore. We backed in, speeches were made and their leaders gave our Chiefs medicines and sang us a journey song. We couldn’t stay any longer and the CMC staff was probably wondering where were. Words cannot
express these emotions that will carry with us forever from this
precious moment in time.

The CMC has a long standing relationship with the Haida. We have worked together on various projects with artists, interns and our community. In 2001, the CMC returned three beautiful treasures back to Haida Gwaii, by way of long-term loan: the bentwood box drum originally from Kaisun (we played it at the 2000 Repatriation ceremonies), Chief Weah’s speaking staff – used by Chief Iljawaas (Weah’s contemporary) was also used at the ceremonies, and
a stone doll. These treasures were unveiled to our community in a ceremony in 2002, and are kept safe at the Haida Gwaii Museum. The CMC is currently working with community members from Skidegate and Old Massett on a new exhibit for the Haida House in the museum’s Grand Hall.


Press Release, 2000