On this day 50 years ago Haida raised the first gya’aang cedar monument at Gaw Tlagee in close to a century. The day marked the resurgence of a carving tradition Haida have developed since the first ts’uu Red cedar arrived in Haida Gwaii. Guud sans glans Robert Davidson carved the gya’aang when he was just 22 years old. It became the first that Haida raised in close to a century after colonial governments sought to silence Xaaydas giinaa.ah Haida cultural ways. The monument’s raising symbolizes Haida resilience and vitality.
Now audiences will be able to relive the excitement of that day with a new Haida-made documentary “Now is the Time.” Haida film director Waats’daa Christopher Auchter will release his new 16-minute film at the Toronto International Film Festival 9 September.
The film is largely based on footage of the event that the National Film Board’s Indian Film Crew captured in 1969. Waats’daa brings the story to life using audio recordings from BC Archives in Victoria and interviews with those that participated. Of course Waats’daa also includes some creative animation, the primary medium of his award-winning animated short “Mountain of SGaana” released October 22, 2017.
Waats’daa’s work brings Haida perspective to the old footage, which shows the Haida community pulling together to raise the gya’aang with nothing more than some tough lines, raw timber supports, and grit.
CHN elected representative Kii’iljuus Barbara Wilson provided the film’s inspiration and reached out to Waats’daa working through the National Film Board. Kii’iljuus took part in the day’s activities 50 years ago and provides commentary through the film alongside gyaa k’id llGaayGalang carver experts Guud sans glans and Ḵiidlajuuwee Reg Davidson. Audiences will also enjoy listening to the voices of K’ujuuhl Jane Kristovich, Joe Weir, Florence Davidson, Victor Adams, and Percy Rodriguez.
The gya’aang remains standing at Gad Gaywáas in front of St Johns Anglican Church.