In 1787 Captain George Dixon surveyed the islands. He named the islands the Queen Charlotte Islands after his ship, the Queen Charlotte, which was named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III of the United Kingdom.
Another name, “Washington’s Isles,” was commonly used by American traders, who frequented the islands in the days of the marine fur trade and considered the islands part of the US-claimed Oregon Country. Following the 1846 Oregon Treaty, which established the current international borders and made the islands definitively part of Canada, the “Queen Charlotte Islands” name became official.
On December 11, 2009, the BC government announced that legislation would be introduced in mid-2010 to officially rename the Queen Charlotte Islands. The legislation received royal assent on June 3, 2010, formalizing the name change. This name change is officially recognized by all levels of Canadian governments, and also by the United States’ National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency name database. The name Haida Gwaii is a modern coinage and was created in the early 1980s as an alternative to the colonial-era name “Queen Charlotte Islands”, to recognize the history of the Haida people. “Haida Gwaii” means “islands of the people”, while Haida on its own means not only “us” but also “people”.
Still in use is the older name Xaadala Gwayee or, in alternative orthography, Xhaaidlagha Gwaayaai, meaning “islands at the boundary of the world”. Xhaaydla (“worlds”) refers here to the sea and sky.
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