The earliest repatriation effort of the Haida was in the mid 70’s, when some monumental poles that once stood in the villages of Yan, Hiellen, T'aanuu
(Tanu) and K'uuna (Skedans) were returned home. These poles had been cut down and taken from Haida Gwaii at the turn of the 20th century, and eventually wound up in Victoria’s Royal British Columbia Museum. The
RBCM returned these poles to the Haida as an act of good faith, and as a
major contribution to the Haida Gwaii Museum, opened in 1976 in Skidegate.
The earliest repatriation of our ancestors’ remains occurred in the 1990’s,
when concerned community members began investigating rumours of unethical archaeological digs done on Haida Gwaii in the 1970's and 80's. In 1993 the remains of over forty-five individuals were confiscated and returned to the
Haida by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police through the efforts of the Haida Gwaii Museum and the Band Councils of Skidegate and Old Massett. The Haida Gwaii Museum began work with the Hereditary Leaders in 1994, consulting on the re-burial process and from this, the name we use for repatriation: Yahgudangang, meaning “To Pay Respect”, was born.
In 1996, our repatriation initiative was formalized when Old Massett formed
the Old Massett Repatriation and Cultural Committee. In 1998 Skidegate
formed the Skidegate Repatriation and Cultural Committee. Together,
we work as the Haida Repatriation Committee.
Our journey has been long, but also rich in learning and healing. In the Museum communities of North America many individuals have had their lives changed
by what they have experienced through repatriation. We have come together
in ways nobody could have predicted to make things right. And institutions also have changed the way they do things. We have many great working relationships with museums across North America and in the UK. We approach repatriation with mutual respect and understanding and are seeing new understandings
based in respect for our past, and a more knowledgeable regard for our
present as Haida people today.