The lands and surrounding waters of Haida Gwaii, along with parts of southern Alaska, are the unceded, ancestral, and traditional territories of our people, the Haida. We have occupied, governed, and responsibly managed Haida Gwaii since time immemorial. Before the arrival of Europeans, we numbered in the tens of thousands, with many of our town sites scattered across the archipelago. The arrival of Europeans brought foreign diseases like smallpox, measles, and typhoid, and our numbers fell to 600 in the early 1900s. As the Haida population dwindled, our people migrated away from their ancestral villages and eventually settled in either Gaw or Skidegate. Today, Haida Gwaii is home to 5,000 full time residents, Haida people make up approximately half of the population.
Gaw (Old Massett Village, meaning “inlet”) is our Xaad (Haida) community located on the north side of Haida Gwaii.
The village of Old Massett is on the northern shore of Graham Island, the largest and most northern island of X̱AAYDAG̱A GWAAY.YAAY B (Queen Charlotte Islands). Old Massett was historically four separate villages.
Old Massett is home to X̱aada families who previously lived in a number of different villages in their territory. Each village had its own dialect and there are five different dialects that are currently spoken by residents of Old Massett.
Most fluent speakers of X̱aad Kil are now in their 80s and those who understand or speak the language somewhat are mostly in their 60s. Younger people are now showing a greater interest in the language and there is hope that community members will continue to learn their language.(First Peoples Language Map)