In 2001, KHHF developed a project entitled “Gásaáan Xaadas Guusuu” or “Kasaan Haida Elders Speak,” in order to gather and preserve the oral testimonies of seven remaining Kasaan Haida Elders. After receiving a grant from Alaska Humanities Forum, we conducted a series of both audio and video recordings in Kasaan and Ketchikan. Our aim was to make the edited versions available to both Kasaan Haida descendants and others, including teachers and researchers.
The late Willard Lear Jones (Nástao, 1930-2007), himself a Haida Elder (Táas Láanas, Raven-Brown Bear clan), headed the project. Dr. Jeane Breinig (Haida) and Eleanor Hadden (Haida, Willard’s daughter) recorded audio and served as interviewers. Media Specialist, Frederick O. Olsen, Jr. (Haida), created a half-hour video documentary.
For the production, Elders offered their experiences of growing up in Kasaan with both historical information and interesting stories. They also shared some Haida words and phrases. The late Dr. Erma G. Lawrence (Áljuhl, Ts’eihl ‘Láanaas Eagle clan,1912-2011), sang “How Great Thou Art” in Haida.
The generous monetary and in-kind donations by Kasaan Haida descendants made the project possible. We received additional support from Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Organized Village of Kasaan.
Conclusion. We successfully completed the project in 2002 and viewed the documentary during Kavilco’s Annual Meeting on November 9, 2002. The original audio tapes of the interviews with the transcripts are housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral Depository. In 2003, Dr. Breinig showed the documentary at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.
Listen to Our Elders Speak
…a small collection of words and phrases recorded by Frederick O. Olsen, Jr. in 2002, with Native speakers Julia Coburn and the late Dr. Erma G. Lawrence.
Dr. Erma G. Lawrence and Julia Coburn singing at the KHHF Annual Dinner and Auction.Dr. Erma G. Lawrence and Julia Coburn singing “How Great Thou Art” at the 2005 KHHF Annual Dinner and Auction.