The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will take a piece of history away with them after their visit on Haida Gwaii. They will receive a t’aaGuu as a gift from the Haida Nation. This is a symbol of power and provision, fashioned from a sheet of copper. Haida carver Gwaliga Hart crafted the symbol on behalf of the Haida Nation.
T’aaGuu take a central role in the coastal legal system known as potlatch. During these elaborate days-long ceremonies hereditary leaders do clan and nation business, commemorate events, decide how to manage resources and redistribute wealth to witnesses. T’aaGuu are the most significant of all gifts. Each t’aaGuu has its own name and comes to each new owner accompanied by a complex life history.
“This is a really powerful gift that the Haida Nation is giving to the Duke and Duchess,” Gwaliga explained. “As Haida we are presenting them with the gift of our highest form of value. This value is derived through potlatch law. On these high occasions each t’aaGuu is spoken about and all its history is presented.”
Each nation on the coast has its own style of t’aaGuu. Gwaliga hand pounded this new 22-inch-long t’aaGuu with a ballpeen hammer to create the domed top and ‘T’ shaped bottom that distinguishes classic Haida design.
“The whole coast recognizes t’aaGuu, which are displayed openly and proudly in front of audiences. This is a gift from our system of governance and currency. It derives its value from our sovereignty, authority and interrelationships. This t’aaGuu embodies what we do here on the coast. That is where its power and value come from. The Duke and Duchess can now go around to different ceremonies and add value to their t’aaGuu along the way.”
Haida citizens Aria Pryce and Royce Yaroshuck will present the couple with a T’aaGuu as they exit the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay on Friday afternoon. Inside Saahlinda Naay the Haida Gwaii Museum houses many t’aaGuu with histories that are centuries long. With the presentation of this gift a new t’aaGuu will join them.
“I created this for our people as the perfect gift to be giving the Duke and Duchess,” Gwaliga concluded. “It’s a beautiful shape in itself, but what it represents is even bigger.”