Graham Richard —
Delegates from the World Wildlife Fund visited Haida Gwaii this September. The 11 visitors were part of the Northern Great Plains Tribal Wildlife Conservation. The conservation group partners with governments, ranchers, and first nations to restore and enhance biodiversity in the region. Delegates met with CHN staff to learn about Haida law, governance, protected areas, and community consultation.
The conversation closed with TaMaskeKuOtaWin Has Many Friends, or Emily Boyd-Valandra of Sicangu Lakota Oyate Burnt Thigh Nation, or Rosebud Sioux, which is a part of Oceti Sakowin Seven Council Fires, or Great Sioux Nation. She presented a hand-made quilt she designed and commissioned from a group of Sioux quilters at Harvest Wind LLC as a gift for the Haida Nation.
Sicangu Lakota Oyate have crafted hide blankets for millennia. After government-supported extermination of buffalo, the Nation started working with star pattern quilts. Lakota imbue each blanket with special significance to recognize important events like birth, death, or marriage. The blanket TaMaskeKuOtaWin designed is wopila, a gift showing gratitude.
TaMaskeKuOtaWin’s design is centered on a morning star, representing the direction from which spirits travel to Earth and linking the corporeal and spirit worlds. Its red and white colours refer to the Haida flag while its red border represents the Sicangu Lakota Oyate flag. The blanket’s outward face contains the red, yellow, white, and black directional colours, while its inside features green for the direction of Earth and blue for the direction of the sky.
The wopila currently awaits Haida dance and song to bring it to life.
WWF delegates included: Keith Aune, Conservation Fellow with Wildlife Conservation Society; Mark Azure, President of Fort Belknap Indian Community; Emily Boyd-Valandra, Biologist at Rosebud Sioux Tribe Game, Fish, and Parks; Trudy Ecoffey PhD, Tribal Liaison for Pine Ridge Reservation, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service; Shaun Grassel PhD, Wildlife Biologist for Lower Brule Sioux Tribe; Bridget Guiza, Program Assistant at First Nations Development Institute; Michael Johnson, Assistant Director of Development at Native American Rights Fund; Jeff Kelly, Director of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Game and Fish; Robbie Magnan, Director of Fort Peck Tribes Fish and Game; Diane Mann-Klager, Natural Resources Officer for Bureau of Indian Affairs, Natural Resources; and Erica Rieder, Senior Program Officer for Community- based Conservation at World Wildlife Fund.