Gidansda Guujaaw

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Gidansda Guujaaw
7th President of the Haida Nation
In office
January 20, 1999 – November 16, 2012
Vice PresidentHarold Yeltatzie
Preceded byRon Brown Jr
Succeeded byKil tlaats 'gaa (Peter Lantin)
In office
January 20, 1999 – January 20, 2003
Vice PresidentArnie Bellis
In office
January 20, 2004 – January 20, 2010
Vice PresidentXiihliikingang (April Churchill)
In office
January 20, 2011 – January 20, 2012
Personal details
Gidansda Giindajin Haawasti Guujaaw

(1953-01-01) January 1, 1953 (age 68)
Massett, Haida Gwaii
RelationsGwaai Edenshaw (son)
ResidenceSkidegate, Haida Gwaii

Gidansda Giindajin Haawasti Guujaaw, also known as Gary Edenshaw, is a singer, wood carver, traditional medicine practitioner, political activist and leader. He of Gakyaals Kiiqawaay, a Haida family of the Raven moiety. He has currently inherited the name Gidansda from his potlatch in 2017, the title of Gakyaals Kiiqawaay hereditary leader. The family's alternate name, "Skedans", is an anglicized mispronunciation of the family's hereditary leader's title.[1] [2]


Guujaaw is a Haida matrilineally descended from Gakyaals Kiiqawaay, a family of the Raven moiety from the village of Skedans (Ḵ'uuna). He was born in Masset, named G̱aaw in Haida, on the northern part of Haida Gwaii. His father, Chiits Gitnaii, is matrilineally descended from the Eagle moiety from the Yakoun River.

Guujaaw means drum, a name formally given him at a potlatch at Kiusta.

Guujaaw began going out onto 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 official publication of the Council 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.

His son Gwaai Edenshaw is an artist and film director, most noted as co-director of the first-ever Haida-language feature-length film Edge of the Knife (SG̲aawaay Ḵʹuuna).[3]


  1. ^ "Skedans". Canadian Museum of History.
  2. ^ Gill, Ian. "All That we Say is Ours". Globe and Mail. Globe and Mail. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  3. ^ "Making history on Haida Gwaii". The Globe and Mail. August 22, 2017.

Bibliography and further reading[edit]

  • Skidegate Text and Histories by Swanton ...Enrico (with a foreword by Guujaaw)
  • Haida Gwaii by Fedje and Mathews (with a foreword by Guujaaw)
  • Mycelium Running by Paul Stamats (Guujaaw note)
  • Raven Travelling (Guujaaw quote and art)
  • Neel, David. The Great Canoes: Reviving a Northwest Coast Tradition. Douglas & McIntyre. 1995. ISBN 1-55054-185-4
  • The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed, By John Vaillant. W. W. Norton & Co. 2005.
  • David Suzuki: The Autobiography, David Suzuki. Greystone Books. 2006.
  • All That We Say Is Ours: Guujaaw and the Reawakening of the Haida Nation, Ian Gill. 2009. (Shortlisted for BC Book Prize and nominated for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Book Prize)

External links[edit]