On February 27-28th 2018 approximately 130 women and girls gathered together for the Heiltsuk and Haida Women’s Dialogue Session in Masset and Old Massett, BC. This dialogue session was the final event within the Haida Gwaii Women’s Dialogue Sessions Project. Out of the 130 participants, 27 were from the Heiltsuk Nation (including 10 children and youth) and about 103 were from the Haida Nation (including about 20 children and youth).

Building from the two previous dialogue sessions, building relationships and enhancing well-being were fundamental to this dialogue session, and was achieved by both engaging in joyful and uplifting activities, and also by sharing heartfelt and vulnerable stories within the safety of the group. As a result, this dialogue session offered the opportunity for women and girls from the Haida and Heiltsuk Nations to grow stronger and closer together, increasing our capacity to support each other in reaching our potential.

Throughout the two days, laughter, stories, tears, and words of inspiration could be heard flowing through the hall, with all of life taking place in our microcosm of this Nation-to-Nation gathering. We had the honour of learning from knowledgeable and experienced members of each Nation as panelists and presenters on cultural health and wellness, the Heiltsuk Women’s Declaration, the Heiltsuk Haida Peace Treaty, Coastal Unity, and inspirational change. Aligned with the two previous sessions, challenges impacting girls and women were also discussed, with the following identified as key challenges for both Heiltsuk and Haida girls and women:

• Violence
• Education
• Adoption and Traditional Laws
• Youth Cultural Connection
• Access to Culture and Language
• Child Protection
• Housing
• Ceremony and Rites of Passage
• Equality
• Environmental Protection

Participant-identified solutions to the challenges included the creation of a permanent helpline and safe house, a Youth and Elder knowledge gathering, and creating a Haida and Heiltsuk Women’s Council. One very important outcome of this dialogue session is a powerful Commitment to Action, calling on the Haida and Heiltsuk Nations to protect Heiltsuk and Haida ways of life and each Nation’s deep-rooted connection between their land and their well-being. Overall, the energy and motivation from this dialogue session was incredible, and as the Heiltsuk women and girls journeyed back to Heiltsuk Territory on BC’s Central West Coast, ideas for a follow-up dialogue session were already forming! We look forward to seeing what comes next and transforming this inspiration into action!

It is with incredible gratitude that we thank the Community Fund for Canada's 150th for the generous grant that enabled the Heiltsuk women and girls to travel from Bella Bella to Haida Gwaii for this amazing event!! Haawa, haw'aa, ǧiáxsix̌a, thank you!