ecotrust logo

2006 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Awardee: Guujaaw

Guujaaw Download a hi-res image: right-click here and select Save As (2.4mb JPG)

"We either fight, surrender, or work things out… and surrender is not an option for us."
—Guujaaw, SpruceRoots, February 2000

Guujaaw (Haida) is the honored recipient of the 2006 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award for his work as a political leader, carver, traditional medicine practitioner, singer and negotiator. Guujaaw has worked with great dedication and purpose for more than three decades to advance the political, cultural, and environmental interests of the Haida Nation. He currently resides in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii.

In various capacities, Guujaaw has fought for protection of the land, economic sustainability, and Haida rights and title over Haida territory. He was the lead CHN negotiator on the Gwaii Haanas Agreement. Guujaaw has been a member of the Archipelago Management Board that co-manages Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. National Geographic honored it last year as the best managed protected area in North America.

Guujaaw is currently the President of the Haida Nation and instrumental in the formation of the Coastal First Nations (Turning Point Initiative). This group is comprised of eight coastal Indigenous Nations working together in common cause to protect the ecological and cultural integrity of their territories. He has also held the official position of 'Firekeeper' for the Hereditary Chiefs of Haida Gwaii.

At the community level, Guujaaw was involved in the establishment of the Gwaii Trust, a locally controlled, interest-bearing fund to advance economic diversification and sustainable development on Haida Gwaii. Haida and the Canadian population consensually control the Trust to build a new and enduring society on Haida Gwaii.

On Haida Gwaii, Guujaaw was involved in the start up of the internationally renowned Rediscovery Program for native and non-native youth to discover their personal nature, cultural integrity, and the power of the natural world. Guujaaw has worked to develop guidelines and policies towards the protection of living Haida archaeological sites. Most recently, Guujaaw and his people have succeeded in protecting the West Coast along with other important cultural and sensitive sites. Their current fights include offshore drilling and tanker traffic, as they bring their case for Aboriginal Title before the Canadian Courts.

Guujaaw is also a talented carver with monumental works in such distant places as Indonesia and Japan. "While this may seem out of context," says Guujaaw, "totem poles inspire people to consider their relationship to this earth." His early work includes sculptural work as an assistant to Haida artist Bill Reid. In the 1980s, Guujaaw was involved in traditional carpentry and engineering in the form of canoes and longhouses. A dedicated teacher, Guujaaw works to pass songs and dances on to the next generation within the broader context of Haida culture.

Guujaaw has represented the Haida Nation at national and international conferences and workshops as well as on Canadian, British, and American television specials. The Nature of Things series hosted by David Suzuki featured Guujaaw on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Islands at the Edge. Guujaaw and the Higagalda Dancers performed on the Sesame Street television show. The First International Forum of United Indigenous Peoples in Pau, France spotlighted Guujaaw and the Haida people. All public appearances support and raise awareness of the struggle to protect Haida homelands and culture.

"We aren't fighting for anything more than we are entitled… our lands from which we get our culture and our life," says Guujaaw. "A leader is only as strong as the will of his people."


2006 Honorees


Harold Gatensby

Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff

Tawna Sanchez

Chief Judith Sayers


Learn More

About Guujaaw:

Native Perspectives on Sustainability
Interview with Guujaaw for dissertation by David Hall, Ph.D.

Reconciling Differences and Inspiring Change, SpruceRoots, Feb. 2000

Revolution on Haida Gwaii, The Tyee, June 21, 2005

Guujaaw, Wikipedia

Guujaaw on Sustainability, EcoFile interview (mp3)


Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
Download vCard

Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


Copyright © 2013 Ecotrust