Canadian History/The People of the Lands/Haida
The Haida are situated on the Queen Charlotte Islands, an archipelago off the mainland of British Columbia, which they affectionately call Haida Gwaii (Land of the People). A few Haida are also situated on southern Alaskan islands.
Haida society is matrilineal. Everything is passed down through the maternal side. This includes property, titles, names, crests, and even such things as performances and songs. Out of all the Haida, there are two moieties (formerly known as clans), the Eagle and the Raven. Marriage was to occur across clans. Members of the Eagle moiety married members of the Raven moiety, and vice versa. One's membership in a clan was inherited matrilineally. Going even further still, each clan was divided into lineages, of which there are now approximately 40 occupying the two main villages Skidegate and Old Massett. Lineages are groups of families with common ancestry. The chief (a title inherited from the maternal uncle) of the lineage, was responsible for lineage property.
Each Haida village was politically independent, but the Haida people have much pride in their clans, which are common ground between villages. Clan membership was promulgated through crests carven on totem poles, war canoes, masks, and other such objects. Haida villages are often built on shores, in one or two rows of houses. This is due to fish being a significant factor of Haida diet and economy. Their houses were often constructed of planks of red cedar, and corner posts supported the framework of wooden beams. The entrance was often a doorway carved either into the front of the house, or into a massive totem pole in the same location, one that was decorated elaborately with lineage and moiety crests.
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Gessler, Trisha. "Haida (Native Group)." The Canadian Encyclopedia (including the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada). 2009. Historica Foundation. 25 Mar 2009
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