Carrie Anne Vanderhoop is currently the Director of the Haida Gwaii Institute. She holds an Ed.M. from Harvard University Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Comparative Literature and Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her own work and research focuses on anti-racism, social justice, Indigenous cultural safety, and systems change. We chatted with her about her connection with Haida Gwaii, connecting with the community, and what students can expect in their semester at HGI.
How did you come to HGI?
I have a deep connection to Haida Gwaii through my ancestral roots. My mother’s family comes from Gaw Tlagee, Old Massett Village. I am Gaw Git’ans, Masset Inlet Eagle clan. Although I grew up most of my childhood in Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, I’ve always felt a strong tie to Haida Gwaii and my Haida heritage. During a summer break after my first year in University, I had the opportunity to visit and spend some time here. This place holds so much cultural and familial significance for me. My family has a history of weaving, and I joined my mother and grandmother in weaving the first Raven’s Tail robe in the village in over 100 years. This opportunity allowed me to connect with my roots and following graduate school, I moved back with my sister in 2002 and have been building a life here ever since.
What drew you to this work?
My passion for education and teaching has been a constant thread in my life. With a Masters in Education, I’ve taught across various educational levels. Joining the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society (HGHES) as the academic lead was an exciting opportunity. There were two-semester programs running at that time, and I became closely involved in curriculum and program development. From the beginning, HGHES partnered with UBC Faculty of Forestry, over time, that partnership evolved and the Haida Gwaii Institute was established which has helped us to expand programming, adding several new semesters and professional development. It’s been great to have been with HGI now for 7 years and witness and be part of its evolution and growth.
What is the relationship between HGI and UBC?
HGI has a relationship with UBC that blends academia with community engagement. We are a part of UBC, but we take a distinct approach that combines western scholarly learning with a strong emphasis on building relationships with the land and the community. Our collaboration with UBC involves creating partnerships and co-creating knowledge, ensuring that traditional knowledge and academic perspectives are equally valued.
What do you hope to see for the future of HGI?
I’ve always appreciated that HGI is a community-led initiative, deeply rooted in the rights and values of the Haida Nation. The institute emerged during a crucial time when the Haida people were asserting their rights and asserting their connection to the land. All of Haida Gwaii from mountain top to ocean floor is Haida territory. This connection is central to Haida culture. I hope that HGI continues to foster this deep relationship with the land, focusing on preservation and protection. The ecosystems here are unique, and the cultural significance of these forests is immense. I’d like to see HGI’s role in educating and advocating for the conservation of Haida Gwaii continue to flourish and give students a chance to look at the environment through a different values perspective.
What is some of the biggest change you’ve seen in the years since you’ve been at HGI?
Over the past few years, there has been a growing emphasis on building relationships, particularly after the challenges posed by the pandemic. We’ve also expanded our collaborations, such as partnering with the Center for Indigenous Fisheries at UBC and working with experts like Dr. Andrea Reid. These partnerships have enriched our approach to learning and sharing knowledge, embracing a spirit of co-creation.
What can learners expect in their semester at Haida Gwaii? Who would be a good candidate for your programs there?
At HGI, we offer a unique learning experience that goes beyond traditional academia. Learners can expect to engage with content experts, knowledge keepers, and the community. We approach education holistically, incorporating scholarly and academic perspectives along with traditional knowledge and ways of learning. Our programs are ideal for individuals who are passionate about preserving and conserving the environment, particularly those interested in Indigenous knowledge and community engagement.
Can you highlight the impact of HGI on students and the community?
When students come to HGI, it’s often a transformative experience. They connect with the community, volunteering and engaging with local residents. For Indigenous students, it’s an opportunity to connect with Indigenous knowledge keepers in community, learning in an environment that values both traditional Indigenous knowledge and Western perspectives. HGI’s impact goes beyond the classroom; it fosters relationships within community and with the land and ocean, and shapes the future stewards of our environment.