Jurisdiction Project

Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Is.)

Haida Gwaii, or the Queen Charlotte Islands, is an archipelago 100 kilometers west of the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada. It includes an isolated group of over 200 islands.

Haida Gwaii is an archipelago of islands (the Queen Charlotte Islands) off the northern coast of British Columbia near the province's border with Alaska. The southern islands are mountainous, with Moresby Island predominating. The large northern island, Graham Island, where the Haida people now live, is mountainous on its western side but to the east is flat with isolated outcrops of rock. North of Dixon Entrance are the Kaigani Haida, as the Haida in Alaska are named. Their territory encompasses the southern half of Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.

off the northwest coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Latitude and Longitude:
53N16, 132W05 at Queen Charlotte City

Time Zone:
GMT -8

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Its climate, like that of the rest of the British Columbia and Alaskan coast in the area, is moderated by the Kuroshio Current and features considerable precipitation and relatively mild temperatures year round.

Natural Resources:
Haida Gwaii is perched on the very edge of Canada's Pacific continental shelf. The combined effects of the cold nutrient-rich waters of the northern Pacific meeting with warm offshore currents originating in Japan, results in an environment abundant in natural resources, both in the sea and forests.


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Some 3500 people live on the islands. Their economy is resource-based with logging and commercial fishing being the most important. Service industries and government jobs maintain about one-third of the employment rolls. In recent years tourism has started to become a more prominent part of the economy, especially for fishing and tour guides, cycling, camping, and adventure tourism.

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The Queen Charlotte Islands is largely a resource-based economy. The main industries are logging, commercial fishing, mining, and tourism. The local economy is heavily dependent upon the forest industry, located primarily on the east and west sides of Graham Island, with a smaller portion on northwest Moresby Island. The timber supply area is around half a million hectares of western hemlock (49%), western red cedar (30%), Sitka spruce (21%), and yellow cedar (less than 1%). Salmon, herring, halibut, black cod, and crabs are the main products in commercial fisheries. In addition to these industries, employment is also high in the service industries and government, which employs 32% of island residents. The forest industry sector accounts for approximately 19 per cent of the Queen Charlotte Islands total labour force. Forestry employment includes logging and forestry services, and primary timber manufacturing. Primary timber manufacturing presently occurs at three small- to medium-sized mills on the Queen Charlotte Islands, although a number of other small mills operate intermittently. The majority of timber is shipped to the mainland for processing. The public sector is also an important source of employment and income for residents of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The service sector, consisting of finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE), accommodation, wholesale and retail trade, other personal services, and transportation, communications and utilities (TCU) also support a substantial percentage of the labour force.

Niche Industry:

Argillite carvings, totem poles and ancient Haida villages attract visitors from around the world. Wildlife viewing and eco-adventures a popular in the Haida Gwaii Islands. Visitors can watch various birds or catch site of migrating whales or seals and sea lions. World class fishing lodges and coastal resorts offer saltwater and salmon fishing adventures that are among British Columbia's finest. Plus, the many freshwater streams offer excellent flyfishing and stream fishing. Hiking, biking and walking on the beaches or numerous trails provides enjoyment as well as relaxation for the outdoor enthusiasts.


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Public Ownership:
The provincial government and the Haida Nation have agreed to co-manage a land use planning process for Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands. A Community Planning Forum began meeting in September 2003, and has as its goal to develop recommendations on a land use plan that is ecosystem-based, maintains spiritual and cultural values, and fosters community well-being, while opening up economic opportunities to all people of Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands.

Land Use:
Forest products, recreation and native culture highlight the range of values and uses found on the islands. Where drainage and soil nutrient conditions are favourable, stands of trees can achieve some of the fastest growth rates on the coast. Subdued terrain on the Queen Charlotte Lowlands and Skidegate Plateau have extensive bogs and nutrient poor stands, while rugged steep terrain dominates the west coast. As a result, only a small percentage of the timber supply area is available for timber harvesting. Flowering plants, some unique to Haida Gwaii, flourish in high alpine meadows. Giant red cedars, Sitka spruce, western hemlock and yellow cypress thrive in Haida Gwaii's cool, moist coastal climate. These wonders rank with the largest trees remaining on earth. Large portions of the islands have been saved from industrial logging in the last ten years. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site protects the southern third of the archipelago. In 1987, the Haida were successful in bringing logging to an end in this area and it is now set aside to be preserved in its natural state. Haida Gwaii is the most isolated land mass in Canada. It is sometimes referred to as the Canadian Galapagos. Because of their remoteness, the islands are a natural laboratory for studying evolution. Several species of plants, lichens and moss are unique to Haida Gwaii. Some animals, including the black bear, ermine and the now extinct Dawson caribou represent distinct sub-species with evolutionary traits unique to Haida Gwaii.


Marine Activity:


Marine Life:
Haida Gwaii's more than 5000 kilometers of coastal shoreline provide an ideal habitat for a great diversity of marine life. Whales, porpoises, seals, and over one-half of British Columbia's sea lion population thrive in the plankton-rich waters.

Critical Issues:


Queen Charlotte City is the administrative centre for the Queen Charlotte Islands. It is a small thriving village of government offices, a hospital and a variety of shops and accommodations.

Political System:
The Council of the Haida Nation was formed in 1980 as a governing entity to address the land-issue in a broader spectrum with the two Village Councils, Clans and people. The Council’s mandate is to protect and assert Aboriginal Title and the collective rights of the people. The Council of the Haida Nation is an unincorporated organization, with authority flowing directly from the land and traditional Haida systems of governance. The Haida Tribal Society was incorporated under Canadian laws in 1984 to serve as the administrative arm of the Council of the Haida Nation. The Council of the Haida Nation entered the treaty process with the province of British Columbia in December 1993. After initial readiness discussions the parties determined that the treaty process could not bridge differences between the parties’ respective visions for a treaty and negotiations were halted in 1995. In the 1997 Delgamuukw decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the importance of dealing with aboriginal title, and prodded provincial governments to get on with negotiating treaties with First Nations in order to unburden the court system with legal proceedings on the matter. In September 2003, British Columbia made a land offer to the Haida that was intended to encourage the parties to re-engage in negotiations, rather than allowing matters to proceed through lengthy and costly court processes. With the assistance of the BC Treaty Commission, the Council of the Haida Nation and BC briefly explored the basis on which the Haida might re-enter the treaty process. In April 2005, the Parties completed Stage 2 of the BCTC process, the determination of the readiness of the three parties - Canada, BC and the First Nation - to negotiate a treaty.

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Important Legislation:
“Our culture is born of respect, and intimacy with the land and sea and the air around us. 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." from the Haida Constitution.

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Associated Power:




Masset 926; Old Massett 707; Port Clements 516; Tlell, Lawn Hill, Miller Creek, Tow Hill 538; Skidegate 743; Queen Charlotte City 1045; Sandspit 435; Other, Moresby Island 25.

Island Area (km sq.) Population % of Total Population

According to the 2001 Census, about 5,000 people reside on the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Year Resident Population

Age of Population: 0-14 15-24 25-49 50-64 65 and up


Haida Gwaii - islands of the people - has been home to the Haida people for as long as oral history and archaeology have recorded occupation of the islands - at least 7,000 years. At least 14,000 people have lived in over 126 known village sites. Following first contact with Europeans, the population plummeted to 589 by 1911, all resident in either Skidegate or Old Masset. Today, the Queen Charlottes are less populated, at 6,000 people, than they were a century ago when Haida communities thrived along the shores. Today, two out of three Haida live off-island, many of whom are planning to return.

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The Haida language is spoken by the Haida of Haida Gwaii and by Haida living along the cost of Alaska. The Haida language is part of the Na-Dene family of Aboriginal languages, but is not closely related to any other language.



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Medical Services:
Services in all communities are fairly limited. The majority of services are available in the two largest communities (QCC and Masset) including: two high schools, hospitals, and banking facilities. The communities of Masset, Old Massett and Port Clements are also working together to secure funding for new hospital facilities for the north end of Graham Island.


 The name Haida Gwaii was introduced as another name of the islands after the name "Queen Charlotte Islands" had been in use for over 300 years to honour the proud history of the Haida Nation. "Haida Gwaii" means "our land", while "Haida" on its own means not only "us" but also "men". The archipelago was visited in 1774 by Juan Pérez and in 1778 by Capt. James Cook. In 1787 the islands were surveyed by Capt. George Dixon. The islands were named by Capt. Dixon after one of his ships, the Queen Charlotte, which was named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of the United Kingdom.


Recent Significant Events:
The Haida First Nation has filed a lawsuit, claiming it is the rightful owner of the Queen Charlottes, including the resource-rich seabed surrounding the islands which contains billions of dollars worth of untapped oil and natural gas. The Haida want to extend a precedent judgement to cover the all the land, trees and waters of the Queen Charlottes, including the offshore oil and gas.

Music, Dance, Handicraft and Patrimony:
The artwork known as Haida Gwaii, by Bill Reid, is featured on the reverse of the Canadian $20 bill. The piece depicts the Spirit of Haida Gwaii in a canoe, accompanied by the mythic messengers. Haida art is also frequently seen on large monumental sized cedar totem poles and even as cartoons in the form of Haida Manga. Among the southern islands, one finds the abandoned villages of Skedans, Tanu and Ninstints (Sqangwaii). These villages contain the best remaining examples of original native totem poles in the world. The United Nations has recognized the cultural value of these sites and designated Ninstints as a "World Heritage Site, of importance to the history of mankind".


http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Haida/nojava/english/c+o/textframe.html, Accessed on 25th April 2006 Civilization.ca, http://www.civilization.ca/aborig/haida/hapindxe.html, Accessed on 25th April 2006 Visitor Centre Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haida_Gwaii, accessed on 24th May 2006 Blue water Adventures: Queen Charlotte’s Island – Canada’s Galapagos, http://www.purewest.com/bluewater/charlotte.html, accessed on 24th May 2006 Queen Charlotte Islands, http://www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/north/cities/queencha.htm, accessed on 25th May 2006 Haida Gwaii Facts and Figures, http://www.haidanation.ca/islands/WhoWhat.html, accessed on 25th May 2006 Environmental-Aboriginal Guardianship through Law and Education, http://www.eaglelaw.org/linksandpartners/councilhaidanation, accessed on 25th May 2006 Welcome to Skidegate: Haida Gwaii, http://www.skidegate.ca/CHN.html, accessed on 25th May 2006 Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation: Council of Haida Gwaii, http://www.gov.bc.ca/arr/negotiation/first_nations_in_the_process/haida_nation.htm, accessed on 25th May 2006 The Dominion: News from the Grassroots, http://dominionpaper.ca/original_peoples/2004/11/06/the_strugg.html, accessed on 25th May 2006 British Columbia Integrated Land Management Bureau, http://ilmbwww.gov.bc.ca/ilmb/lup/lrmp/coast/qci/index.html, accessed on 25th May 2006 Library and Archives Canada: The Kids’ Site of Canadian Settlement, http://www.collectionscanada.ca/settlement/kids/021013-2061.8-e.html, accessed on 25th May 2006 British Columbia.com: Queen Charlotte Islands, http://www.britishcolumbia.com/regions/towns/?townID=3661, accessed on 25th May 2006 www.astro.com: atlas query, http://www.astro.com/atlas/horoscope?country_list=CAN&expr=queen+charlotte+islands&submit=Search, accessed on 25th May 2006 Queen Charlotte Islands Forest District, http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/dqc/info.htm, accessed on 25th May 2006 Cbc.ca: British Columbia, http://www.cbc.ca/bc/story/bc_haidapm020306.html, accessed on 25th May 2006


Useful Links:

Please address queries to:
Institute of Island Studies
University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI)
550 University Ave
Charlottetown, PE, Canada, C1A 4P3

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