One of the First Nations of Canada, the Haidas live on islands off the west coast of North America. The Haidas were fishermen and artists. The homeland was Haida Gwaii, called the Queen Charlotte Islands. Some people moved north, over what is now the border of Alaska and the United States.
The people made boats, boxes, totem poles, and masks from the wood of the coastal forest: cedar and hemlock and spruce. While most folks made art, the grandest pieces were made by gifted artists who were well compensated for their work. The carving and painting followed sophisticated rules of design. Bill Holm has made scholarly analysis of formline design.
The people used a ceremony called potlatch to mark important life events and to redistribute wealth. A capable man was much admired for being willing to offer a feast, give away much wealth, and then start again to accumulate wealth. For some decades, the potlatch was opposed by the Anglo-European missionaries and lawmen, but today the people can legally potlatch. (See gift economy.)
The Haida are known for their intricate weavings, hammered copper pieces, great canoes that travelled hundreds of miles, stories of heroic times.
One of the Haida's sacred symbols is Kiidk'yaas, a sitka spruce tree with a rare mutation causing its needles to be golden in colour. The tree stood on the Yakoun River in Haida Gwaii until it was surreptitiously cut down in 1997, causing great consternation in the Haida community. However, twenty years previous, cuttings had been taken from the tree for the University of British Columbia arboretum, and the University donated one of the resulting trees to the Haida. Parts of the original felled Kiidk'yaas were also replanted.