Haida - Orientation

Identification. The Haida are an American Indian group whose traditional territory covered the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia and a section of the Alexander Archipelago in southeastern Alaska. The name "Haida" is an Anglicized version of the Northern Haida's name for themselves, meaning "to be human, to be a Haida."

Location. The Queen Charlotte Islands, which includes 2 large and about 150 small islands, lie from thirty to eighty miles off the north coast of British Columbia, between 52° and 54° 15′ N. Haida territory in southeastern Alaska extended to about 55° 30′ N. This is an ecologically diverse territory, with considerable variation from one locale to another in rainfall, flora, fauna, topography, and soil. At the time of first contact with Europeans in the late 1700s, the Haida were settled in a number of towns that formed six regionallinguistic subdivisions: the Kaigani people, the people of the north coast of Graham Island, the Skidegate Inlet people, the people of the west coast of Moresby Island, the people of the east coast of Moresby Island, and the southern (Kunghit) people. In the 1970s, four divisions were still recognized.

Demography. A census conducted from 1836 to 1841 suggested a total Haida population of about 8,000. By 1901 the population had declined to about 900 and then to 588 in 1915. Since that time, it has gradually increased, and today there are about 2,000 Haida in Canada and 1,500 in Southeastern Alaska.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Haida language is apparently unrelated to any other known language, although at one time it was classified in the Na Dene language family. Before European settlement, there were Northern and Southern dialects and a number of subdialects spoken in specific towns or Regions. Today, there are few Haida speakers left.

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