Tanisha Salomons —
A very long time ago, Nang Kilsdlaas Hll.nga Supernatural raven placed JiiGawaay the sun in the sky so the world would have light. This week, JiiGawaay dips to its lowest point in the sky for the year, marking the shortest period of daylight and the longest night. As the days have grown shorter this winter we have been lucky to catch fleeting glimpses of JiiGawaay, but that will start to change on Thursday as the days get longer and JiiGawaay climbs higher in the sky once again.
Just in time for JiiGawaay’s return, the youth centres in HlGaagilda and Gaaw recently flipped the switch and celebrated the launch of their new solar installations, thanks to a partnership with the Swiilawiid Sustainability Society.
Since its launch in October 2016, Swiilawiid has been engaging youth around innovative solutions to Haida Gwaii’s diesel dependency. In addition to the 5.5kW solar arrays at the two youth centres, the society is also working with the Rediscovery camps at ‘Laana DaaGang.nga GawGa Swan Bay and T’aalan Stl’ang, as well as the Mount Moresby Adventure Camp, to install off-grid solar projects this coming spring.
Down at Hiit’aGan.iina Kuuyas Naay (the Skidegate Youth Centre), Coordinator Anna Allan and Youth Worker Guud Yuwans Willie Russ are optimistic about clean energy. “The panels will cover all, if not most, of our electrical bill,” says Allan. Guud Yuwans, who emceed the project’s community launch at the centre last week, nods enthusiastically. “It started this year with the kids pushing to replace our old pop machine with a freezer for traditional foods, and it’s growing into a whole conversation about what sustainability means, what it means to be sovereign.”
While energy sovereignty is still a way off for Haida Gwaii, we can count on JiiGawaay to rise every day even at the darkest time of the year, and the coloured lights illuminating the youth centre this season are now solar powered.
The solar panels at the youth centres in Gaaw and HlGaagilda have already generated over 150 kilowatt hours of energy – equivalent to displacing 13.5 litres of diesel fuel that would have released about 80 lbs of CO2 into the environment. The environmental impact of generating this amount of solar energy is also comparable to turning off 450 lights or planting 6 trees.