Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Haida—renowned for their rank system, potlatches and totem poles—live on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia and Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. The traditional economy was based on fishing, supplemented by foraging and hunting; after contact they became involved in the global fur trade, and in the lumber and fishing industries. The matrilineage was the basic political and territorial unit.


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North America --Northwest Coast and California



United States

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

The earliest ethnographic account of the Haida is by Swan (1874) who interviewed Haida traders in Port Townsend, Washington State. Swanton (1905) provides a thorough ethnography of the Haida based on fieldwork in 1900. Murdock followed thirty years later, publishing several book chapters and articles, which include a culture overview (Murdock 1934 "The Haidas of British Columbia") and more detailed examination of kinship (Murdock 1934 "Kinship and social behavior among the Haida”) and ranking (Murdock 1970). Brink (1974) presents a two-hundred year history of the post-contact period, divided into four phases, and Blackman (1982) adds a complimentary life history of Florence Edenshaw Davidson, 1896-1979. There are two chapters from the Handbook of North American Indians, an overview by Blackman (1990), and a post-1960 summary by Stearns (1990) who also wrote a more complete ethnography for the1960s to early 1980s (Stearns 1981). Also from this later period, Boelscher (1988) has written a symbolic interactionist analysis of the workings of the Haida socio-political system.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Ian Skoggard

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