After the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge landed at Kay Llnagaay in Haida Gwaii, their hosts gathered to welcome them in Gina Guu Aahljuu Naay (Performance House). The huge longhouse is constructed in the traditional style from massive beams and large cedar planks. The crowd broke into song as they waited for their guests.
Before the Duke and Duchess entered the house they stopped to be presented with formal Haida regalia by a famous Haida weaver. With quiet pride Kuuyas 7waahlal Gidaak (Lisa Hageman) gifted them matching patterned mantels. Kuuyas 7waahlal Gidaak is a master of her art, and each hand-woven item she creates takes countless hours. The knowledge of Haida weaving was passed onto her through the tumultuous events of colonial history. Today the Duke and Duchess received a profound and sincere symbol of reconciliation. The Duchess was wowed by the gift.
After Gaahlaay welcomed and introduced the Duke and Duchess to the assembly and the Haida language community prayed, a Gaagiixit burst through the door. This supernatural being is a representation of a person driven wild by isolation in Haida Gwaii’s rainforests. The power that possesses the dancer drives bad feelings and spirits out of the house and prepares the audience to witness the business that will occur.
The appearance of Gaagiixit was followed by the songs and dances of the Haida nation. Dancers poured into the hall, singing loudly and paddling in honour of the long journey that the Duke and Duchess’ took to visit Haida Gwaii. Each dancer adorns their regalia with the crests of their family. These crests are inherited through the matrilineal ancestral line, where each Haida person derives their role in society.
The next dancers demonstrated the power and authority of the hereditary leaders of Haida Gwaii. The group sang a song belonging to Gitkinjuuwas, whose family is of the Eagle moiety from Hlkinul Llnagaay (Cumshewa Village). This dance shows great respect to the honoured guests. The eagle down that spread throughout the room symbolizes peace, and as it spreads throughout the air and hall it shows the goodwill the Haida Nation harbours for their visitors.
This dance was followed by numerous masks that show the stories and ancestries through which all Haida people are interwoven. The eagle and the raven are the nation’s two primary moieties, and each Haida person understands their role in society according to which moiety the belong to. These two masks were followed by a plethora of creatures and supernaturals, including taan, the Haida Gwaii black bear and a dance in grateful recognition of the salmon which provides life for so many creatures in Haida Gwaii. The dances and songs were followed by speeches before the Duke and Duchess proceeded on their tour of Kay Llnagaay.