by Bob Joseph
Well, it is a time of change for the Council of the Haida Nation. I recently learned that Guujaaw, who was first elected in 2000, will no longer be the president. I was also fortunate enough to receive and email from Andy Wilson with the following kind words.
“To Guujaaw, thank you for being such a great leader to the Haida Nation. My late great uncle Ernie, chief Skedans, once said to me, "A great chief doesn't talk about himself, or put himself up in public. If you truly are great, people will know who you are even before you get there” and this is true of Guujaaw. Sorry to see you step down. Guujaaw once said to me "We can't all be chiefs..." Andy Wilson
These kind words inspired me to take a look at the accomplishments of this great leader.
A few of Guujaaw’s many milestones:
1970s - Worked to protect Gwaii Haanas from the damages of logging activity. He was instrumental in the fight for the protection of Gwaii Haanas (South Moresby). He was instrumental in moving the issue out of the hands of environmentalists and making it solely a Haida Nation issue by insisting that only members of the Haida Nation could participate in the blockades. This action cumulated in 1987 when Gwaii Haanas was made a National Park reserve;
1980s - Was an active participant in the blockades of logging operations at Lyell Island;
2000 - Elected President of Haida Nation;
2004 - Instrumental and involved in the landmark Haida court case;
2006 - Awarded the Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership in recognition of his longstanding engagement for the political, cultural and environmental advancement of the Haida nation;
2008 - featured in a CTV documentary for his efforts to have the Haida Gwaii black bear recognized as a subspecies of the American black bear;
2009 - Successful in drive to have Queen Charlotte Islands renamed as Haida Gwaii;
2012 - Steps down as President of Council of Haida Nation;
2012 - Steps up as Skidegate representative on the Council of the Haida Nation.
I did have an opportunity to meet and work with Guujaaw on an on-site cross cultural training assignment for a client in Haida Gwaii a few years back and some of the words used to describe him then were “well rounded, environmentalist, activist, leader, visionary, drummer, dancer, carver” and more. By far the nicest words shared for our session though were from Chief Skidegate, whose English name was Dempsey Collinson, when he said, in front of the session participants “You are doing a great job for us, Guujaaw, keep up the good work.”
Like Andy, I would like to say to Guujaaw “Thanks for your help on this, and for the important work you do for the Haida which benefits peoples everywhere. Best wishes, Guujaaw, in your role as the Skidegate representative on the Council of the Haida Nation.”
Photo from Guujaaw’s website http://www.qcislands.net/guujaaw/
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