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Haida Gwaii Watchmen Program

Three human figures wearing high hats are often carved at the very top of Haida poles. In the past, Haida watchmen were posted at strategic positions around a village to raise the alarm in advance of an approaching enemy. Watchmen also crowned poles as carved figures protecting the village from evil spirits. The three carved watchmen form the symbol adopted by the Haida for the Haida Gwaii Watchmen Program.

Today, from spring until autumn, the Haida Gwaii Watchmen serve as guardians at the following old village sites. NOTE: T'aanuu Llnagaay and K'uuna LLnagaay are located outside the boundaries of the National Park Reserve, but within those of the Haida Heritage Site.

The Watchmen's primary mandate, to protect these sensitive sites, is accomplished by educating visitors about the natural and cultural heritage of Gwaii Haanas. They're also happy to provide information about safety and the latest marine forecasts that come in by radio. As a visitor, your entry fees to Gwaii Haanas help to support the Watchmen Program.

The program aims for diversity of Haida Watchmen at each site, ideally including men and women, elders and youth, who spend shifts of two weeks to the whole summer in Gwaii Haanas. They share cultural values and age-old traditions with new generations of Haida and with visitors from around the world.

History of the Haida Gwaii Watchmen Program

The Haida recognize that nature and culture are intrinsically connected, and that the protection of Gwaii Haanas is essential to sustaining their culture. This vision is reflected in the preamble of the Haida Constitution:

"Our culture, our heritage is the child of respect and intimacy with the land and sea. Like the forests, the roots of our people are intertwined such that the greatest troubles cannot overcome us. We owe our existence to Haida Gwaii ... the living generation accepts the responsibility to ensure that our heritage is passed on to following generations."

In 1981, well before Gwaii Haanas was designated a Haida Heritage Site or a National Park Reserve, the Haida were concerned about the potential for vandalism or other damage to old Haida village sites. The Haida Watchmen Program began with parties of one or two volunteers who used their own boats to access the sites, and they would camp for the summer. There, they presented visitors with a first-hand introduction to Haida culture by sharing their knowledge of the land and sea, their stories, songs, dances and traditional foods.

Today, the Watchmen program is funded from several sources, including the fees visitors pay to enter Gwaii Haanas. It has its own management and provides seasonal employment for the Haida. The key elements remain the same. The mandate continues to be, first and foremost, the safeguarding of Gwaii Haanas.

Contact the Haida Gwaii Watchmen Program for more detailed information:

P.O. Box 1413
Skidegate, Haida Gwaii
V0T 1S1
Tel. and Fax. 250-559-8225
Web site: