It's Officially Haida Gwaii

Posted by Daniel on Jun 19, 2010

One of BC's storied place names has passed into history.

The re-branding of the Queen Charlotte Islands as Haida Gwaii was officially completed this week with a ceremony in Massett in which the Haida returned the former name to the Crown.

Of course, the Haida have always known their homeland as Haida Gwaii, but to the outside world it was the Queen Charlottes ever since fur-trade captain George Dixon christened the archipelago after his trading vessel, the Queen Charlotte, in 1787. The ship, in turn, was named for the wife of King George III of England.

Dixon had been an armourer aboard Captain James Cook's Discovery during Cook's 1778 visit to Nootka Sound. That trip initiated the coastal sea otter trade and Dixon was one of the first mariners to jump into the business, creating the King George's Sound Company and spending two seasons (1786-87) on the north coast. He was the first European to trade extensively with the Haida.

Haida Gwaii, which means "islands of the people", has been the designation of choice for the islands for years, but this week's ceremony concludes the name change.