Guujaaw is of the Raven clan of the Haida Nation. He was born in Masset on the northern part of Haida Gwaii. He is born of the Gakyaals Kiiqawaay Skedans Ravens like his mother. His father, Chiits Gitnaii, is an Eagle from the Yakoun River.
Guujaaw means drum, a name formally given him at a potlatch at Kiusta.
Guujaaw began going to the land at a young age, digging cockles, picking seaweed with his mother, hunting and fishing with his father and trapping with his uncle. In his infancy he spent summers with his great-grandmother who lived to be 114 years old. She was a singer who taped over 100 songs and became the greatest influence on his life.
Elders also played an important role in Guujaaw’s growth and understanding of the world. It was through this engagement with their wisdom and the old ways that Guujaaw undertook journeys around the Islands by row-boat and canoes, often alone. He knows the ways of the Islands as well as anyone.
Guujaaw has worked with the Council of the Haida Nation for the past twenty years to secure the protection of some areas of the Islands as well as pushing for more care and sustainable use of Island resources. He was in the forefront of the fight for the protection of Gwaii Haanas (South Moresby) and took part in the blockades of logging operations at Lyell Island in the mid 1980s. Today, he is a member of the Archipelago Management Board which co-manages, with the Government of Canada Gwaii Haanas.
He has been involved in developing the policies and strategies of the Council of the Haida Nation, and has served as the negotiator for the Council of the Haida Nation and worked to develop guidelines and policies towards the protection of living Haida archaeological sites (Culturally Modified Trees). He has held the official position of ‘Firekeeper’ for the Hereditary Chiefs of Haida Gwaii.
Guujaaw has been a regular contributor to Haida Laas — the Journal of the Haida Nation. He is a dedicated teacher working to pass songs and dances on to the next generation within the broader context of Haida culture. His love for the land and understanding of the vulnerability of life has put him in the position of devoting much of his adulthood to fighting the forces that are changing the land.
“All the we say is ours is of Haida Gwaii. This is our lot, our heritage, our life… and one of the world’s great cultures.”
Today Guujaaw continues to balance carving with his many other roles which include; political activist, teacher, medicinal practitioner, historian, and performer.
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