Haida Gwaii is home to a rich and vibrant culture whose origins date back thousands of years. Today, the Haida People are known throughout Canada and the world for their artistic achievements, their commitment to social justice and environmental protection, and their deep connection to the natural world. Embedded in Haida culture and drawn from ancient oral narratives are a number of Supernatural Beings, many of them female, who embody these connections to the land, the sea, and the sky. Magical Beings of Haida Gwaii features ten of these ancient figures and presents them to children as visually engaging, empowering, and meaningful examples of living in balance with nature. Developed by renowned Haida activist, lawyer, performer, and artist Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson and Haida educator Sara Florence Davidson, this book challenges stereotypes, helps advance reconciliation, and celebrates Indigenous identity and culture.
Based on ancient Haida narratives, this vibrantly illustrated children’s book empowers young people and teaches them to live in harmony with nature.
The Haida Peoples have lived in Haida Gwaii for a very long time, even before the ice age and floods made the Earth we know today. Haida Peoples have been able to live in Haida Gwaii for so long because of how the Haida view the land and the sea.
Haida Elders teach that Haida Gwaii is a magical place with Magical Beings through stories called “Raven Traveling,” or Xuuya Kaagang.ngas in the Skidegate dialect of the Haida language. These stories tell of Raven traveling the Earth and changing it to make it fit for humans. The Haida name for Raven is Nang Kilslas, which means The-One-Whose-Voice-is-Obeyed. This is because Raven is powerful and can make events happen just by speaking about them.
I grew up in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii. During that time, my parents, Godfrey and Mabel Williams, told me about some of the Magical Beings through Raven Travelling stories and other stories about our relatives seeing Magical Beings. My maternal great-grandmother, the late Elder and Song Keeper Susan Williams, sang songs about Magical Beings and told Raven Traveling stories in Haida. She lived until she was 109 and died when I was six years old.
I also learned about some of the Magical Beings from reading books about Haida art and culture. Later, I learned that many Haida artists, such as Charles Edenshaw and my husband, Haida Elder and Artist Robert Davidson, have always made art about Magical Beings and Crest Figures in totem poles, sculptures, tattoos, jewellery, paintings, and many other objects. I explored Magical Beings further in my discussions with Robert.
As a child and throughout my life, I tried to imagine how the Magical Beings might look. In my book and art exhibit Out of Concealment: Female Supernatural Beings of Haida Gwaii and my music album Grizzly Bear Town, I learned more about the female Magical Beings by creating images and music and writing about them.
I imagined that children today might also be curious about how the Magical Beings look. From my work with Haida musical and legal traditions, I believe it is really important for children to learn the teachings of the Magical Beings. They reinforce our shared history and connections with the land and sea and teach us how to live respectfully with the land and sea. Haida Elders teach us that everything we do affects everything else. We are all connected because, as Haida Elder GwaaGanad, Diane Brown, teaches, Haida Peoples were originally born of the ocean. I also firmly believe that the Magical Beings want children to know that they too are all Magical Beings with powers unique to them.