National Geographic honours Gwaii Haanas

Watchmen and Parks Canada staff at Skedans, Gwaii Haanas.

Skidegate – Gwaii Haanas has been selected as one of three finalists for a National Geographic Traveler World Legacy Award in the Sense of Place category.

These awards are a new initiative of the National Geographic Society in partnership with ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel trade show.

“Everything is connected in Gwaii Haanas,” said long-time Gwaii Haanas park superintendent Ernie Gladstone. “From temperate rainforests to abundant sea life and carved monumental poles, all natural and cultural treasures in this unique protected area provide a glimpse into the Haida way of life.”

Together, the Government of Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation manage Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site at the southern tip of Haida Gwaii — an archipelago off the west coast of northern BC that is home to giant Sitka spruce, feasting humpback whales, salmon and herring, and a significant proportion of the world’s nesting seabirds.

The groundbreaking park reserve and heritage site has been honoured for the many ways the region enhances, protects and supports cultural heritage, such as conserving treasures like the standing poles and longhouse remains at the ancient village SGang Gwaay (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and K’uuna Llnagaay.

Gwaii Haanas staff sustain Haida culture by supporting the Watchmen program, where Haida of all ages live at cultural sites, connecting visitors to these places and carrying out traditional activities like carving, weaving and food gathering, and work with archaeologists to inventory more than 500 human-use or settlement sites dating back over 12,000 years.

The award also reflects Gwaii Haanas’ effort to educate guests on the importance of cultural traditions — including the presentation of archaeological findings and other cultural heritage programs to locals and visitors, and highlighting the protected area’s cooperative management structure, which outlines the Haida worldview: “Everything is connected to everything else.”

In addition, the award recognized measures in environmental protection, such restoring seabird and salmon habitat and promoting the Haida principle of “yahguudang” (respect for all living things).