Haida Gwaii, or the Queen Charlotte Islands, is an archipelago 100 kilometers west of the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada. It includes an isolated group of over 200 islands, large and small, totaling approximately 3750 square miles.

Haida Gwaii is perched on the very edge of Canada’s Pacific continental shelf. The combined effects of the cold nutrient-rich waters of the northern Pacific meeting with warm offshore currents originating in Japan, results in an environment abundant in natural resources, both in the sea and forests.

Flowering plants, some unique to Haida Gwaii, flourish in high alpine meadows. Giant red cedars, Sitka spruce, western hemlock and yellow cypress thrive in Haida Gwaii’s cool, moist coastal climate. These wonders rank with the largest trees remaining on earth.

Large portions of the islands have been saved from industrial logging in the last ten years. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site protects the southern third of the archipelago. In 1987, the Haida were successful in bringing logging to an end in this area and it is now set aside to be preserved in its natural state
Haida Gwaii, or the Queen Charlotte Islands, is an archipelago 100 kilometers west of the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada. It includes an isolated group of over 200 islands, large and small, totaling approximately 3750 square miles.

Haida Gwaii is perched on the very edge of Canada’s Pacific continental shelf. The combined effects of the cold nutrient-rich waters of the northern Pacific meeting with warm offshore currents originating in Japan, results in an environment abundant in natural resources, both in the sea and forests.

Flowering plants, some unique to Haida Gwaii, flourish in high alpine meadows. Giant red cedars, Sitka spruce, western hemlock and yellow cypress thrive in Haida Gwaii’s cool, moist coastal climate. These wonders rank with the largest trees remaining on earth.

Large portions of the islands have been saved from industrial logging in the last ten years. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site protects the southern third of the archipelago. In 1987, the Haida were successful in bringing logging to an end in this area and it is now set aside to be preserved in its natural state

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Map

Map of Haida Gwaii

Canadian Museum of Civlization

© 1996, G.F. MacDonald, Douglas & McIntyre and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.


Photo

Burnaby Narrows, Gwaii Haanas.

Photo: Art Twomey
Islands at the Edge, Islands Protection Society, Douglas & McIntyre.
1984
© 1984, Islands Protection Society, Douglas & McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.


Gwaii Haanas Forest

Gwaii Haanas Forest.

Photo: Jack Litrell
Islands at the Edge, Islands Protection Society, Douglas & McIntyre.
1984
© 1984, Islands Protection Society, Douglas & McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.


Barge

Log Barge in Masset Inlet

Photo: Larry Thompson

© Larry Thompson


Haida Gwaii’s more than 5000 kilometers of coastal shoreline provide an ideal habitat for a great diversity of marine life.

Whales, porpoises, seals, and over one-half of British Columbia’s sea lion population thrive in the plankton-rich waters.

Haida Gwaii supports over 25 percent of all nesting seabirds in the Canadian Pacific--up to half a million breeding pairs. Preying upon this abundant food source are Peale’s peregrine falcons, which are found here in the world’s greatest concentrations. Bald eagles nest in South Moresby in densities unparalleled anywhere in Canada. The islands are a major stopover for migrating waterfowl along the Pacific flyway. Trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes are among the endangered species which find refuge in Haida Gwaii.

Haida Gwaii is the most isolated land mass in Canada. It is sometimes referred to as the Canadian Galapagos. Because of their remoteness, the islands are a natural laboratory for studying evolution. Several species of plants, lichens and moss are unique to Haida Gwaii. Some animals, including the black bear, ermine and the now extinct Dawson caribou represent distinct sub- Read More
Haida Gwaii’s more than 5000 kilometers of coastal shoreline provide an ideal habitat for a great diversity of marine life.

Whales, porpoises, seals, and over one-half of British Columbia’s sea lion population thrive in the plankton-rich waters.

Haida Gwaii supports over 25 percent of all nesting seabirds in the Canadian Pacific--up to half a million breeding pairs. Preying upon this abundant food source are Peale’s peregrine falcons, which are found here in the world’s greatest concentrations. Bald eagles nest in South Moresby in densities unparalleled anywhere in Canada. The islands are a major stopover for migrating waterfowl along the Pacific flyway. Trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes are among the endangered species which find refuge in Haida Gwaii.

Haida Gwaii is the most isolated land mass in Canada. It is sometimes referred to as the Canadian Galapagos. Because of their remoteness, the islands are a natural laboratory for studying evolution. Several species of plants, lichens and moss are unique to Haida Gwaii. Some animals, including the black bear, ermine and the now extinct Dawson caribou represent distinct sub-species with evolutionary traits unique to Haida Gwaii.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Sea lions

Sea Lions in Gwaii Haanas.

Photo: David Denning
Islands at the Edge, Islands Protection Society, Douglas & McIntyre.
1984
© 1984, Islands Protection Society, Douglas & McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.


Eagle

Eagle

Photo: Bob Sutherland
Islands at the Edge, Islands Protection Society, Douglas & McIntyre.
1984
© 1984, Islands Protection Society, Douglas & McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.


The earliest known name for the islands is Xaaydlaa Gwaayaay, meaning, "Islands coming out of concealment." The more common Haida name is Haida Gwaii, meaning, "Islands of the People."

The official geographic name is the Queen Charlotte Islands, which originates, in 1787, with George Dixon, a British fur trader, who named the islands after Queen Charlotte, the wife of the King of England, George III.

Today, however, the name "Queen Charlottes" is beginning to be superseded by "Haida Gwaii" in everyday and official reference to the islands. An application procedure to officially change the name to Haida Gwaii has been initiated by the Council of the Haida Nation
The earliest known name for the islands is Xaaydlaa Gwaayaay, meaning, "Islands coming out of concealment." The more common Haida name is Haida Gwaii, meaning, "Islands of the People."

The official geographic name is the Queen Charlotte Islands, which originates, in 1787, with George Dixon, a British fur trader, who named the islands after Queen Charlotte, the wife of the King of England, George III.

Today, however, the name "Queen Charlottes" is beginning to be superseded by "Haida Gwaii" in everyday and official reference to the islands. An application procedure to officially change the name to Haida Gwaii has been initiated by the Council of the Haida Nation

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Coastline

Aerial rugged coastline, Gwaii Haanas.

Photo: Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

© Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Locate Haida Gwaii on a map, and describe its relationship to the rest of Canada
  • Describe the ecology of Haida Gwaii
  • Describe the history and significance of the naming of this geographic area

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans