The work that you are about to read is old, much older than any of us still living. It is probably older than anything one could even call Canadian. It precedes us all. Obviously I am not the primary creator of such a narrative, but as a Haida citizen, it is an ancestral experience. The strength of owning a thing is often expressed as a right to share it. In this retelling we the illustrators, editors, linguists, curators and indeed the community of living Haidas and friend invite you to join with us. Come as a respected guest. Sit at the table and be nourished by our living culture.
This story is a blend of accounts recorded at the turn of the nineteenth century in three of the once numerous dialects of the Haida language. I have combined elements from these accounts into a newly constructed whole. Be cautioned that these images are interpretations informed by my own cultural composition and life experiences. This is a contemporary rendering of a worldview first expressed in different times and probably for different reasons. I am not stepping forward to join that dais filled with authorities claiming to represent those distant times. I am a Haida whose life experiences are probably very similar to [that of] your own. In many respects that greater distance between the first tellers of ga Sraagaa sdang and ourselves, makes us both readers.
The first part of my telling of ga Sraagaa sdang comes from Sk’a.aaws. This is an ancient town site located along the eastern border of a forested region called Duu Guusd. Duu Guusd is part of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago still held until recently in its colonial embrace as the Queen Charlotte Islands. The other old source of telling is Skedans. This old town is located in the Gwaii Haanas Haida Heritage Site, an area also currently reserved as a Canadian National Park.
I have restrained from writing an extensive opinion, instead limiting my retelling to a brief text and illustrations. This should suffice to give the engaged reader a hint of the mazing concepts which ripple through this shamanic tale and remain a substantial element of that dynamic living society of indigenous peoples called Haida.
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas