Sovereign Graffiti on Haida Gwaii

A Photo Essay




photography, protest, Haida Gwaii, military history


This photo essay centers the graffiti painted on the ruins of a former Canadian Forces military base in the Village of Masset on the islands of Haida Gwaii. Authored by a combined class of Haida and settler high school students, the graffiti, we argue, can be read as “sovereign” both in the relatively straightforward sense that it affirms Haida Title and the Nation’s sovereign rights, but also in a more expansive sense as a means of a means of articulating the complexities of what it means to be human, to be Haida or a neighbor of the Haida Nation, and to exist politically and personally without needing to draw firm distinctions between these categories. We situate these images in the history of the military base and its relation to the Haida Nation, while ultimately arguing that the graffiti both responds to and charts new paths forward for this complex of settler colonial relations.

Author Biographies

Hilary Morgan V. Leathem (Mx), University of Chicago

Hilary Morgan Leathem (they/she) is the project lead of Este Lugar Tiene Muchas Historias/Lajtre Yuduxh Rextiixni, a digital repatriation project funded by Imagining Futures through Un/Archived Pasts at the University of Exeter. Trained as both an archaeologist and anthropologist, their research interests include the sociopolitics of the past, affective economies of heritage, and decolonial and creative methodologies. Leathem recently completed their doctoral dissertation, “History (Dis)Possessed: Haunting, Theft, and the Making of Monumental Heritage in Oaxaca, Mexico” at the University of Chicago, and their scholarly writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Current Anthropology, The Archaeological Review from Cambridge, Cultural Anthropology’s Visual and New Media Reviews, and the Monument Lab Bulletin.

Joseph Weiss, Wesleyan University

Joseph Weiss is associate professor of anthropology and affiliate faculty in science in society at Wesleyan University. His research interests include Indigenous sovereignty, settler colonialism, time, and toxicity. Articles by Dr. Weiss have appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and Anthropologica, among other venues, and his first monograph, Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life Beyond Settler Colonialism, was published by UBC Press in 2018. He was previously Curator of Western Ethnology at the Canadian Museum of History.





Photo Essay