SpruceRoots - Transcript No. 2
November 28, 2002

Haida Title and Implications
Terri Lynn Williams Davidson speaking to the gathering at the Visitor Reception Centre, Queen Charlotte.

Thank you Louise, and thank you to the Gowgaia Institute for this invitation. I'm very honoured to be here to talk about the Title case, where we're going with it and the process we will be engaging in, and to also give a little bit of background of where we've been with the Tree Farm License 39 case as well.

As a Haida person involved in this litigation I have come behind many people who have created a path to follow in bringing this litigation. With all the different legislation preventing First Nations from bringing litigation in the past, Haida people have prevailed and tried to make a future living on Haida Gwaii. We follow in the footsteps of people like Godfrey Kelly and Alfred Adams, who created a path to follow in asserting our jurisdiction over the land.

The interesting thing about how the laws have formed is that Canada has tried to grapple with how are we going to deal with Haida Title, with First Nations Title. While they certainly don't have an idea of what Haida Title would be or other First Nations Title, they've created an opportunity for us to build in what our view of the land is and what our view of the relationship with the land would be. Section 35 [Constitution of Canada] is an opportunity for us to challenge legislation, for us to challenge federal and provincial legislation which is infringing Aboriginal Rights and Title. What we have not seen are challenges to legislation based on Haida Title or Aboriginal Title. As Louise was saying, Section 35 is an opportunity to reconcile different Nations' world views about the land. It's an opportunity to find a way for us to live together. How we plan on doing that with this legislation is by looking at how Haida people lived with the land. What was our relationship to the land? How did we look at the supernatural beings in the oceans and in the forests? And what principles can we pull from our relationship with the land to guide future land use decisions?

The TFL-39 case was brought forward in a situation where the Haida had no other alternative but to go to court. We faced all of this logging -- which Gowgaia has already analyzed on Haida Gwaii. There is not a lot of cedar left for us to continue exercising our culture. When Haida people objected to the tree farm license being replaced and asked for it to be placed on the Treaty table, the province and the federal governments refused for that to be an issue on the Treaty table. When we brought litigation to stop the replacement and transfer [of the license to Weyerhaeuser] and to try to control the amount of logging on Haida Gwaii, the Province walked from the Treaty table. We had no other alternative but to go to court. And here we are again today, in the same situation, bringing Title litigation to protect Haida Gwaii. And that's really what the case is about. It is not so much as claiming Haida Gwaii as belonging to Haida people as it is upholding our responsibility to take care of the land for future generations.

An important thing about Aboriginal Title in Canadian law is the "inherent limit" -- which Louise talked about -- and this is really a sustainability limit. If Haida people can't live on the land and exercise Title over the land in a way that prevents future generations from using the land, then our view is that no one else can, and that would be our limit on activities over Haida Gwaii. It is that anything that occurs on Haida Gwaii in the future must be sustainable in order not to infringe Haida Title.

As we prepare for litigation we will be looking to the elders for our relationship to the land and our laws. We will be looking at archeological evidence to support the oral history evidence. We will be looking at anthropological evidence. We will be turning to different scientists to come up with a sustainable way to live on the land into the future. And I think that is really the opportunity of this litigation, the opportunity to pull us together, to come up with a model to live on Haida Gwaii in the future. WeÕre all part of the solution that we craft for the future.

I always have to think about my grandfather, Lewis Collinson, who gave a speech to Haida people in 1969, and told about how all of us people are here together, our roots are intertwined, and only if we work together will we be able to continue into the future and weather the storms of this world.

So this case is about finding the heart of human people. Haida Gwaii, the Haida word xaaydlaa means people, it means person, it's not just a Haida person, it's all people and the heart of every human being, the heart of xaaydagaay and of Haida people is the principal of yah'gudaang. This is the principle of respect and doing the best that we can to take care of the land. There is no other opportunity in Canada, that I can see, where we can bring traditional principles of looking at the land, traditional ways of living with the land and inject it into the resource management regime of taking care of the land. There is no other opportunity out there like this. Looking at the various environmental avenues available, it is the only way to do it. What we will be doing with all this is pulling together many different world views. We will be looking at the Haida traditional view but we will also be looking at how much can Haida Gwaii sustain, how much further logging can Haida Gwaii take, how much further fishing, commercial fishing, can happen on Haida Gwaii. What we will be doing is finding a very delicate balance between our relationship with Haida Gwaii.

A very important principle in Haida belief is "the world is as sharp as the edge of a knife". And what I feel we are doing with the litigation is finding that very delicate balance on the edge of the knife, where we balance Haida traditional views with scientific evidence, with archeological evidence, with all of the peoples' worldview of how we are going to live together on this edge of a knife that is Haida Gwaii.

What I think we are doing with this case is we're going back to the original name of Haida Gwaii. The original name of Haida Gwaii is xaaydlaa gwaayaay which is 'Islands Out of Concealment of the Supernatural Beings.' This is a very special place where we lived totally in relationship with the supernatural beings. Our existence came about because of the supernatural beings bringing Haida people to live on this land and care for it for the future. What this opportunity is, is for all of us to take Haida Gwaii out of concealment and say this is the model that we have created together. A model that we can hold to the rest of the world and say this is a way for us to live together on the land, that it is sustainable for the whole world, not just for Haida Gwaii.

Thank you.

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson