In 1825 Imperial Russia and the British Empire entered into a Treaty setting the boundary between the trading territories of the Russian/American co. and the Hudson Bay Co. at 54o40’ North Latitude. Later, in 1867, Russia ceded its trading territory and sold the assets of the Russian/American Trading Co. to the fledgling United States of America. That line (54o40’ N) served to not only divide the waters of the body of water called Dixon Entrance, but also it cut Haida territories in-two. Now there is a dispute between Canada and the U.S. over who controls Dixon Entrance. On July 25, 1989 at 1755hrs., PDT, two Sea-going Haida canoes parted that imaginary line and re-united the Haida Nation. Dixon Entrance is Haida territory.
The two vessels, Lootaas "Wave-Eater" and Seal Hunter, commanded by Andy Wilson (Skidegate) and Christian White (Massett), sailing under the flag of the Haida Nation (all crew members carry Passports issued by the Council of the Haida Nation) departed from the port of Massett, Haida Gwaii (B.C.) at 0330hrs., PDT, enroute to Hik Taw Hundlaay, Haida Gwaii (Hydaburg, Alaska) 70 miles to the north. This was the first such voyage undertaken by Haida mariners in nearly 100 yrs.
This was a "Family Affair" to which the news media, with one exception, was excluded. Upon arriving near its destination, the fleet of two canoes and three escort vessels (two under American Registry and the other under Canadian) stopped and American Customs cleared the three motor vessel escorts. A traditional ceremonial landing was made at Hik Taw Hundlaay. The arrivees (paddlers) were from three of the four Haida communities Dlii uu Haadi (Skidegate), Aa uu Haadii (Massett) and K’iis Haat’aaii (Hydaburg, Alaska); not represented was another group of K’iis Haat’aaii (Kasaan, Alaska). On shore, the greeters included members of all four Haida communities. Children, teenagers, adults and elders; arrivees and greeters alike, openly, and with pride, wept tears of joy as they hugged relatives. This was followed by two days of feasting and speech making. Then it was time for Wave-eater and Seal Hunter to depart. At 0400hrs., ADT, last farewells and best wishes for a safe journey were made and the two Haida vessels departed southward.
At 2130hrs., PDT, on July 28, 1989, amid prayers, speech-making, ceremonies, and feasting, Wave-Eater and Seal Hunter arrived safely at Massett, Haida Gwaii. Canadian Customs and Immigration was equally as respective as had been the American officials.
The Voyage across "Bull-Head spawning grounds" (Dixon Entrance)
Both Canada and the United States of America claim ownership of Dixon Entrance, the body of water in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean separating British Columbia from Alaska ("A-B" line at 54o40’ North latitude). The Haida government states that "Bull-Head spawning grounds" is neither American nor Canadian, it is Haida Territory! To make the fact clear to the two outside claimants, and to others, two Sea-going, Haida canoes, sailing out of the port of Massett, Haida Gwaii (B.C.), at 1755hrs. PDT, dispelled that imaginary "A-B" line, thereby asserting Haida owner-ship and re-unifying North and South Haida Gwaii. Both the United States’ and Canadian Customs services respect the Haida claim by not attempting to enforce their respective rules, except to check the vessels carrying U.S. or Canadian registry. Likewise, in keeping the Haida Law and in cooperation with the global drug trafficing concern, the Council of the Haida Nation insured that no controlled substance (drugs) was carried by any member of the voyage.
An equally significant aspect of the voyage is that it was the first such voyage undertaken by the Haida mariners in nearly 100 yrs. The population of Haida Gwaii, due to epidemics of small pox, rocky mountain spotted fever, measles, chicken pox and Spanish influenza, was reduced few (10 to 20) thousand to an estimated mere 600 souls; the canoes rotted on the beaches and, even if the canoes had been sea-worthy, there were not enough men left to undertake any type of sea voyage. Thus, after nearly 100 yrs. the Haida nation is now re-unified. This was a "family affair" to which the news media, with one exception, was excluded. A traditional, ceremonial landing was made at Hik Taw Hundlaay, Kiis Gwaii (Hydaburg, Alaska) - Kasaan Haat’aaii not represented on the canoes. On shore, the greeters included Haidas from all four Haida Provinces. Children, Teens, Adults and Elders; Arrivees and Greeters alike openly, and with pride, shed tears of joy as they hugged their relatives. This was followed by two days of feasting and speach-making. Then it was time for Wave-Eater and Seal Hunter to depart. Amid prayers, speach-making, ceremonies and feasting, the two canoes and their crews arrived safely at Massett, Haida Gwaii at 2130hrs. PDT on July 28, 1989.
read the original scanned letter....
"Andy Wilson, who has looked after the canoe for the last 20 years, has been on all three voyages the Loo Taa has made: from Vancouver to Haida Gwaii in 1987, from Masset to Hydaburg (a Haida village on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska) in 1989, and down the Seine River to Paris, France later that year."