|Skidegate Cemetary, Haida Gwaii 1916|
The Haida of Haida Gwaii never signed a treaty with the Canadian government, and have always considered the immigrants as trespassers. The assimilation and enfranchisement policies included: Indian Act 1876, Banning the Potlatch 1884, Infected Blankets, Use of Residential Schools , and later on, the 60s scoop. These policies all contributed to the deculturation of the Haida, which nearly silenced a language, and nearly exterminated a people and their history.
In 1884 Canada outlawed or banned the Potlatch until 1951, this had a huge political impact and destroyed the right to self-governance for many native people on the Northwest Coast including the Haida. For many years, the Canadian government called Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte Islands.
In 1866 Susan Kihid Lai Gaaa t'a.angee Smith was born into the Tsiij Git'anee Clan to Ta'ow King Ung Duus (her mother) and passed away in 1926. Susan Smith had ten kids, 4 boys and 6 girls. Mary Louisa Dixon was born in 1910 on Fraser Island in Haida Gwaii. She and her brother and sisters lost their father, Herbert Smith, when he left in the Steamer "Beaver" to Victoria. He never came back. So Nonni (Haida word for grandmother) Mary Louisa Dixon composed a song which she sang and played at every opportunity, called the Steamboat Song. You can Listen to her singing on YouTube. Nonni Mary Louisa Dixon attended Residential School, had 5 boys, and 5 girls, lived to the age of 89 and buried in Skidegate.
Some of Louisa's children also attended residential school which not only destroyed their self-esteem growing up, it damaged their language use, traditions, values, and cultural identity. There were many other hazards they had to face as well, such as physical and sexual abuse, separation from family, and alienation from their culture.
Even after the near extermination, the population of the Haida people has prevailed. Some migrating back to the islands from Alaska after the epidemics peak and from elsewhere. It would appear then that the Haida people had passed the critical point in this history and were beginning to increase in numbers once again.