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Haida Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Haida tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Haida website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Haida pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Haida Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Haida"? What does it mean?
Haida is pronounced "HIGH-dah." This is an English pronunciation of their native word Xayda, which means "person."

Where do the Haidas live?
The Haida Indians are original people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Their homelands are the islands near the coast of southeastern Alaska and northwest British Columbia, particularly the Haida Gwaii archipelago and Prince of Wales Island. Here is a map showing the location of the Haida communities of Haida Gwaii.

How is the Haida Indian nation organized?
In Canada, there are two separate Haida communities, called Masset and Skidegate. Each has its own reserve, or reservation. Reserves are land that belongs to a Native American tribe and is legally under their control. Each Haida tribe--known as a band or First Nation in Canada--is politically independent and has its own leadership. The two Haida First Nations each have their own government, laws, police, and services, just like small countries. However, the Haidas are also Canadian citizens and must obey Canadian law.

Haidas in the United States do not have reservations. Like most Alaska Natives, they live in a Native village instead, which is called Hydaburg. Alaska Native villages do not have the same sovereignty rights that Indian nations in other US states do, but the Haidas belong to a coalition called the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska which handles tribal government on behalf of several Native villages. The Haidas of Hydaburg also have a local council that has economic control over their village and its resources.

What language do the Haida Indians speak?
Almost all Haida people speak English today, but some Haidas, especially elders, also speak their native Haida language. Haida is a complicated language with many sounds that don't exist in English. If you'd like to know an easy Haida word, "háw'aa" (sounds a little like how-ah) means "thank you" in Haida. You can also read a Haida picture dictionary here.

Today Haida is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. However, some Haida people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Haida culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to an online museum exhibit on the Haidas from Canada.
There you can find information about the Haidas in the past and today.

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How do Haida Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Haida children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys and games to play. Like many Native Americans, Haida mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with Native American baby carrier pictures.

What were men and women's roles in the Haida tribe?
Haida women gathered plants and herbs, wove baskets and cloth, and did most of the child care and cooking. Men were fishermen and hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. The Haida chief was always a man, but women held important roles as clan leaders.

What were Haida homes like in the past?
The Haidas lived in rectangular cedar-plank houses with bark roofs. Usually these houses were large (up to 100 feet long) and each one housed several familes from the same clan (as many as 50 people.) Here are some pictures of Native American plank houses like the ones Haida Indians used. Today, old-fashioned buildings like these are still made from cedar wood, but they are only used for ceremonial purposes. Haida people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Haida clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Haida men wore breech clouts and long cloaks. Women wore knee-length skirts and poncho-like capes. Haida clothing was usually woven out of fiber made from cedar bark, but some garments were made of deerskin and otter fur. In cold weather, Haida people wore moccasins and heavy caribou robes, but most of the time, they preferred to go barefoot. For formal occasions, Haida people wore more elaborate outfits, with tunics, leggings and cloaks painted with tribal designs. Some important and wealthy Haidas wore the spectacular Chilkat blankets, which were woven from cedar bark and mountain goat hair. Here is a website with images of Haida clothes and textiles, and some photos and links about Indian dress in general.

The Haidas didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux tribe. Instead, both men and women sometimes wore basket hats made of finely woven spruce root. The designs and patterns of these hats often displayed a person's status and family connections. Here are some pictures of Native American basket hats. The Haidas painted their faces with different colors and designs for different occasions, and often wore tribal tattoo designs of stylized animals. Haida women usually wore their hair long and loose, while men often coiled theirs into a topknot. Like other Northwestern Indians, Haida men sometimes wore mustaches and beards. Here is a website with pictures of Native American hair.

Today, some Haida people still have a traditional cloak or basket hat, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths.

What was Haida transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Haida Indian tribe was well-known for their large dugout canoes, which they made by hollowing out cedar logs. A Haida canoe could be more than sixty feet long and was built to withstand stormy waves. Even other Northwest Coast Indian tribes, who all made impressive canoes, admired the canoes of the Haida carvers. The Haida tribe used these canoes to travel up and down the sea coast for trading, fishing and hunting, and warfare. Here is a website of cedar canoe pictures. Today, of course, Haida people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Haida food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Haida Indians were fishing people. Haida men caught fish and sea mammals from their canoes. They also hunted birds, deer, and small game. Haida women gathered shellfish, seaweed, berries, and roots. Here is a website with more information about Pacific Northwest Indian food.

What were Haida weapons and tools like in the past?
Haida fishermen used harpoons, bone fishhooks, and wooden fish traps. Hunters used bows and arrows, and trappers used snares. In war, Haida men fired their bows or fought with spears and war clubs. Some Haida warriors wore bulky armor made of wooden rods lashed together to protect themselves from enemy archers. Here is a website with pictures and information about Native American weapons and tools.

What are Haida arts and crafts like?
Haida artists are known for their fine basket weaving and woodcarving art, including carved masks and spectacular totem poles. Here is a website about the creation of a Haida totem pole.

What other Native Americans did the Haida tribe interact with?
The Haidas would frequently trade with all the other tribes of the Northwest Coast, particularly the Tlingit and Tsimshian tribes. Chiefs from other tribes especially desired Haida canoes, which were famous for their strength and beauty, and the Haidas liked to buy caribou hides and the fine weavings of the Tlingits. The Northwest Coast tribes also fought each other frequently, raiding each other's villages to steal wealth and capture slaves.

What kinds of stories do the Haida Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Haida legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Haida Indian culture. Here is one Haida legend about a boy who turned into a salmon. Here's a website where you can read more about Haida mythology.

What about Haida religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Haida life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Haida people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Haida religion or this site about Native American religious beliefs in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Children of the Midnight Sun, an excellent book about the lives of contemporary Alaska Native children. One of the eight children profiled is Haida. You may enjoy The Mouse Woman Trilogy, an interesting retelling of several Haida legends. Younger children may like The Day the Sun Was Stolen, a picture book of a traditional Haida legend. Potlatch is a picture book about a Tsimshian family which makes a great introduction to Northwest Coast Indian life today. If you want to know more about Haida culture and history, two good books are The Haida and Haida Lifeways. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Indian literature in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Haida Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Haida Tribe

Haida Indian Tribe
An overview of the Haida people, their language and history.

Haida Language Resources
Haida Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Haida Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Haida Native Americans past and present.

Haida Indian Words
Haida Indian vocabulary lists.

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