Stolen Spirits of Haida Gwaii

After the Haida were forced, by disease, to abandon some 35 of their ancient villages, their islands became a paradise for the relic hunters of the early 20th century, greedy for the totem poles and masks that were – and are – desired by museums all over the world.

Unbeknownst to the Haida, these adventurers also dug up graves and looted mortuary poles, taking away hundreds of skeletons to be used in a bizarre and ultimately futile scientific quest. Not until the early 1990s did the young people of Haida Gwaii learn that the remains of their ancestors – along with more than 100,000 from other tribes -- were in museum basements. When they found this out, they decided to do something about it.

Unbeknownst to the Haida, these adventurers also dug up graves and looted mortuary poles.

Stolen Spirits of Haida Gwaii follows the Haida through a fascinating process of relearning their culture and an incredible journey which takes them to Chicago and, ultimately, to a reconciliation with the descendants of the scientists who robbed the islands’ graves a century ago.

Feature Documentary | History Television | 2004

Awards

  • Gold Ribbon Award, Canadian Association of Broadcasters - Aboriginal Programming, 2006
  • Grand Prix Rigoberta Menchu, Montreal First People's Festival, 2005
  • Best Direction in a Documentary Program, Gemini Awards, 2005
  • Best History Documentary Program, Gemini Awards, 2005