X̱aaydag̱a Gwaay.yaay (Haida Gwaii) is an archipelago of 200 islands that includes Kiis Gwaay (Graham Island) and T’aawxii X̱aaydaɢ̠a Gwaay.yaay linaɢ̠waay (Moresby Island) in what was formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.
It is situated about 100 kilometres west of the northern coast of British Columbia.
Haida people have lived on the islands for thousands of years and exercise their sovereignty over the islands and its surrounding waters through the X̱aaydaG̱a Waadlux̱an Naay (the Council of the Haida Nation).
The Haida Nation has explained: “Our pre-contact population was in the tens of thousands in several dozen towns dispersed throughout the islands. During the time of contact our population fell to about 600, this was due to introduced disease including measles, typhoid and smallpox.”
Presently, Haida people make up half of the 5,000 people living on Haida Gwaii.
The most recent Haida Gwaii state of emergency communication notes: “Non-resident travel to Haida Gwaii is not permitted at this time.”
On July 10, despite the objections of the Council of the Haida Nation, the Queen Charlotte Lodge, a 20-acre luxury fishing resort on Haida Gwaii, reopened.
On July 20, CBC News reported: “Tensions have been rising on Haida Gwaii since the luxury fishing lodge, which is on the northernmost island of the archipelago, reopened despite a state of emergency in the Haida Nation because of COVID-19.”
This follows a group of Haida matriarchs, the Gaandlee Guu Jaalang (Daughters of the Rivers), posting this video on Facebook of five vessels from the lodge passing close to Haida boats fishing in the waters and a tense verbal exchange.
On July 21, the Haida Hereditary Chiefs Council stated:
“Since its arrival, Queen Charlotte Lodge has treated this precious part of our homeland as little more than a playground for those who make money spoiling the Earth. In their lust for profit, QCL has expanded far beyond acceptable limits, trespassing with breakwater and mooring overreach in Needan Gawee Naden Harbour, and now, they choose profit over life.”
The hereditary chiefs conclude: “If Queen Charlotte Lodge had ever been welcomed, it has lost its welcome on Haida Gwaii.”
In solidarity with the Haida Nation, member of Parliament Leah Gazan tweeted:
“It is not ok to support human rights when it suits your economic & political agenda & then stay silent when it doesn’t! Human rights should never be up for debate. We must all stay vigilant to uphold & respect #HumanRights for all, at all times! #HumanRightsNow #HaidaGwaii”
The United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, José Francisco Calí Tzay, a Maya Kaqchikel from Guatemala, stated: “Now, more than ever, governments worldwide should support Indigenous peoples to implement their own plans to protect their communities and participate in the elaboration of nationwide initiatives to ensure these do not discriminate against them.”
Brent Patterson is the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. This article originally appeared on the PBI-Canada website. Follow @PBIcanada and @CBrentPatterson on Twitter.