Tying the Liis: The Connection of the Haida to Ancestral Belongings in Museums

Main Article Content

Sdahl Ḵ'awaas Lucy Bell


In Haida culture, we have a concept of  an invisible liis (string). It ties us to our mothers and all the mothers before her. It also ties us to Haida Gwaii. I believe there is a liis connecting us to our Ancestors’ 12,000 belongings in museums. My research goal is to strengthen the liis connecting us to our Haida belongings. I aim to tell the story of Haida museology, to support the Haida control and return of Haida belongings; and to show the Haida way of bringing reconciliation to the heritage sector.

I will combine my traditional practice with my academic learning. My research is situated in yahgudang (respect) ḵangang (responsibility) yahk’ii (to tell the truth) and tla yahda (to make things right). I use a blended theoretical and action-based approach, including grounded theory, auto-ethnography, and participatory action, to conduct qualitative community-based interviews, literature review, and archival research in a Haida way.

The Haida community not only guides my research but is actively involved in my research journey. It is important to me that they feel involved and see and hear themselves in my research.

I call upon Jaad ahl K’iiganaa (Story Woman) to bring stories and experiences to life in my dissertation. I aim for my research to be meaningful and accessible for the Haida and Indigenous communities and for academic and museum audiences.

I honour the Haida community and our Kuniisii (Ancestors) by telling our story.

Article Details

Nurturing the Relationship between Community & Research
Author Biography

Sdahl Ḵ'awaas Lucy Bell, Simon Fraser University

Haida Nation