About HGI

Shaping the Future by Sharing Haida Gwaii with the World

HGI develops and delivers transformative education inspired by Haida Gwaii. We offer students immersive, experiential learning opportunities in rural, resource-dependent communities in transition. Here the Haida Nation, island communities, and provincial and federal governments are working through complex joint management models towards reconciliation and sustainability.

Drawing on Haida Gwaii’s legacy of innovation and leadership, HGI offers a range of programming including undergraduate semesters, professional development courses, research opportunities, public lectures and workshops, and more.

HGI embraces a place-based approach; we see the social and ecological systems of Haida Gwaii as vibrant natural classrooms for our students to engage with, grounding course content in living, local case studies. We believe in working together and facilitating a rich collaboration between academics and local knowledge holders, supporting a meaningful learning exchange and the development of a broad perspective.

As issues around the globe become increasingly complex, our programs help position students at the leading edge, preparing them to be future leaders and decision-makers.

Community Economic Development & Diversification

HGI fosters community economic development and diversification by providing opportunities for local businesses and organizations to benefit from our programs (particularly during the off-season months when tourism is not at its peak), as well as creating employment opportunities.

HGI students and faculty engage in the local economy through rental accommodations, recreational activities, shopping, etc. They often encourage their family and friends to visit the islands, who come from all corners of the world to experience Haida Gwaii.

We anticipate that our economic impact will grow as we expand our programming into other island communities.

“The Haida Gwaii [Institute] has created world-class programming and learning opportunities for university students, which has also diversified the local economy on Haida Gwaii and supported businesses.”
Evan Saugstad, Chair, Northern Development Initiative Trust, 2013

“The existing Haida Gwaii [Institute] semesters program is a key economic driver for the Village of Queen Charlotte and Haida Gwaii.”
Carol Kulesha, Mayor of Queen Charlotte, 2013

Would you like to support cross-cultural, transformative place-based education? We invite you to consider making a donation! Please contact us for more information or donate here.

Our Story

In 2008, a local cross-cultural working group met in Haida Gwaii to brainstorm ideas around natural resource management, sustainable economies, and university education. Through their conversations they came to the realization that the global paradigm around natural resources is shifting, and that new and innovative approaches are needed.

As an island community where the social, cultural, environmental, political, and economic issues facing natural resource managers around the globe converge at a local scale, Haida Gwaii is a microcosm of the rest of the world. As such, it was decided that Haida Gwaii would be the ideal place to create immersive educational programming to equip future leaders to guide their communities towards a sustainable future. This small group of dedicated individuals formed a board of directors, incorporated a society, and launched Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society (HGHES) by offering the first semester in Natural Resource Studies in 2010, with a total class size of 9 students.

Fast forward 10 years and as of March 2019, there have been 19 Haida Gwaii Semesters that have welcomed over 350 students from Haida Gwaii, across Canada and around the world; over 150 local people involved in the program as local and traditional knowledge holders; 20 local people who teach or have taught with as instructors; 18 local alumni; approximately 11 previously visiting alumni who now call Haida Gwaii home; and, injected over $3 million dollars into Haida Gwaii’s economy. This has not been an easy milestone to reach, and there are many to thank in the community for supporting, working and collaborating with this community-based and led project.

Over the last 10 years HGHES has built a strong relationship with the globally recognized University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry, who has been the university accrediting partner of the Haida Gwaii Semesters since its inception. Following the past successes gained by working together, HGHES and UBC Faculty of Forestry decided in late 2016 to make their partnership even stronger as one strategy to sustain the Haida Gwaii Semesters over the long-term. This strategic partnership took physical form in early 2018 with the establishment of the Haida Gwaii Institute (HGI).

HGI is a community-based education and research post-secondary institution located on Haida Gwaii that is governed by both the HGHES and UBC Faculty of Forestry. HGI now manages and operates the established Haida Gwaii Semesters, along with the new Haida Gwaii Summer Sessions and future programming. The HGI will invite and welcome partnerships with other post-secondary institutions, as the HGHES has always done.

Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia