The Haida Nation

The Haida live on Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, and part of the Alexander Archipelago (Alaska). The people lived in groups of houses, but these groupings were not especially political units. Most of the Haida had a crest system. Traditionally the Haida were born into one of two clans or moieties: the Raven or the Eagle. The moiety further branched into lineages. Kinship was determined through the mother, so your father would not belong to your moiety but he would have lifelong obligations to you. A supernatural woman was the spiritual ancestor of each lineage. Lineages owned property. Property to the NW Coast First Nations includes resource areas, land, houses, things like canoes, baskets, traps, and non-physical things like songs, dances, rights ot show crests in certain ways, stories, and names. The moiety crest could be shown by everyone in that moiety, but each lineage had a more particular crest. Crests were shown on totem poles, tattoos, feast dishes, ceremonial garments, drums, weapons and canoes and many other things. The hereditary chief was the one entrusted with the property of the lineage, usually the next oldest son, a younger brother or oldest sister's oldest son. There were higher-ranking people, lower-ranking people and slaves. Slaves were caught in wars or the offspring of those caught in wars. High-ranking people were those whose lineage owned houses and those whose parents had given them a potlatch.

Potlatches were given by the high-ranking people to give their children names, to raise a house, for marriage and at high-ranking peoples deaths. The people attending the potlatch were seated in a very deliberate manner according to rank. At the potlatch there would be feasting, songs and dances, recognition of the special events and gift-giving by the host to high-ranking witnesses from his own lineage and from others.

Spirituality: Spirit initiates left the village and were possessed by a spirit. On their return to the village, they entered the potlatch house and were exorcised through dancing. The initiates gave away property to those witnessing the spiritual initation. Each moiety had different spirits that would possess their initiates.

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