he Haida are North American Indians living on the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia and on part of Prince of Wales Island, southeast Alaska, which some Haida groups invaded, probably early in the 18th century.
Traditional Haida society was organized into many single matriclan villages composed of one to several house groups. Matriclans, headed by hereditary chiefs, were land-owning and ceremonial units that were divided into Eagle and Raven subgroups (moieties). Expert fishermen and seafarers, the Haida depended heavily on halibut, black cod, sea mammals, mollusks, and other sea species in addition to their freshwater salmon catches. The abundant red cedars were used to make huge dugout canoes, multifamily plank houses, numerous splendidly carved TOTEM poles as memorials and as portal poles, and carved boxes and dishes. Chiefs gave potlatches to guests of the opposite moiety, displaying hereditary crests and dances. Shamans wore masks indicative of their spirit powers in curing. Warfare with enemy tribes was frequent, for revenge, booty, and slaves. In the early 19th century the aboriginal Haida population was about 8,000 on the Queen Charlotte Islands and 1,800 in Alaska; in the 1890s they numbered fewer than 1,500 as the result of disease introduced through Western contact. During this appalling population decline, Queen Charlotte Islands survivors assembled in multiclan villages, of which two remain, Masset and Skidegate. In the mid-1980s the total Haida population was about 2,000.
- Ethnologue - Languages of the World
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