Upon their arrival in Haida Gwaii The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took a short canoe journey from GuuhlGa Llnagaay (Skidegate Landing) to the stony beach of Kay Llnagaay. As a dozen Haida paddlers pushed the canoe through the water, the face of k’aaxadaa (Dogfish) came into view around the rocky shore. The couple was aboard Looplex, a fibre-glass replica formed from a mould of Lootaas, a 15-metre canoe and masterwork of Iljuuwas (Bill Reid).
By participating as paddlers the Duke and Duchess took part in a seafaring legacy stretching back to the time when trees first arrived in Haida Gwaii at Xaagyah Saahlwaay Sdaagiids, after the glaciers receded. The largest Haida vessels were up to 80 feet long, seating well over 50 people. Haida mariners could sail and paddle these vessels at least as far as California, Hawaii, and Kamchatka Krai.
The Duke and Duchess joined a crew of paddlers who, today just as then, were chosen from amongst the warriors of the Haida Nation. Members of the Saints basketball team drummed and sang as they approached shore. As soon as their music faded those waiting on shore replied by singing the Haida national anthem.
K_ay Llnagaay is a site Haida have occupied for thousands of years. It is the point of origin for many of the supernaturals that inhabit Haida Gwaii and the home of Ts’aahl, a Haida family of the Eagle moiety. As the Duke and Duchess stepped ashore they were welcomed by Gaahlaay, the hereditary leader of Ts’aahl. With him stood President of the Haida Nation kil tlaats ‘gaa (Peter Lantin), the democratically elected leader of the Islands’ governing body the Council of the Haida Nation.
Once on shore the hereditary leaders of Haida Gwaii’s families also greeted the couple, whose territories are spread throughout the islands. Their regalia refers to the histories, crests and supernatural origins of the Haida people. Hand-woven headdresses are fringed with k’uuxuu (Marten) and tllga (Ermine) furs, which once served as part of the recent trade-history that connects the Haida Nation with the English Nation. As their guests looked into the eyes of the wooden frontlets they were looking into the unique ancestry that intertwines Haida families with the islands of their homeland.