Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson (Haida: Gid7ahl-Gudsllaay Lalaxaaygans)[1] is a Canadian indigenous lawyer, artist, activist and author and a member of the Raven Clan from the Haida Nation. As a lawyer, Williams-Davidson specializes in aboriginal-environmental law, having represented the Haida Nation at all levels of court since 1996[2][3] and notably participating in the litigation of the Haida Nation's TFL39 Case to protect the old-growth forests of Haida Gwaii, a case that effectively altered the government's stance on the consultation and accommodation of Aboriginal Rights.[4]

Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson performing July 1, 2019.

Williams-Davidson has also become an important figure in the preservation of Haida culture, using music and literature to revitalize the language and culture of Haida Gwaii. She has released three studio albums of Haida songs: 2008's "Lalaxaaygans: Beautiful Sound",[5] 2011's "New Journeys"[6] and 2017's "Grizzly Bear Town"[7] as well as two books based on supernatural beings from ancient oral Haida narratives: "Magical Beings of Haida Gwaii"[8] and "Out of Concealment".[9]


Born and raised in Haida Gwaii, Williams-Davidson was given the name "Lalaxaaygans" Haida for "Beautiful Sound" by her maternal great-grandmother Susan Williams, who was a song custodian. The influence of her great-grandmother became apparent at the age of 6 when she first began singing in public.[10] She began singing in Haida at 13 and soon after co-founded a children's dance group "Skidegate Haida Dancers" in 1978.[11]

Williams-Davidson's academic career began with a degree in computer science, which she received from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1990.[12] While pursuing a degree in law she spent the summer of 1993 working for the Haida Gwaii Museum, where she catalogued and researched southern songs of the Haida Nation. The following year, Williams-Davidson received the name "Gid7ahl-Gudsllaay" held by her great-grandmother Susan Williams.[10]

Williams-Davidson competed her law degree and graduated from UBC in 1995.[13] She was called to the Bar of British Columbia the following year and founded EAGLE, a charity providing free legal aid to protect land.[14]

In 1996, Williams-Davidson married Robert Davidson, a renowned Haida artist.

She is the cousin of Gidansda Guujaaw.

Legal workEdit

Williams-Davidson represents the Haida nation at all levels of court, and has done so since 1995. Her involvement in litigating the Haida Nation's TFL39 Case is of particular note, as it is considered the leading case on the consultation and accommodation of Aboriginal rights related to resource development. She has also helped win innovative interim agreements with British Columbia and Canada as counsel for the Haida Nations aboriginal title case.[15][16][17]

Williams-Davidson played a significant role as a member of the Haida Nation's legal team in their litigation against the approval of the Enbridge Pipeline project.[18]

Through 2014 and 2015, Williams-Davidson represented the Haida Nation in litigation against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, challenging the decision to open a commercial herring fishery in Haida Gwaii waters. In a ruling that is seen as a significant milestone in the use of indigenous rights in the battle for environmental conservation, the court agreed with Williams-Davidson's case and granted an injunction which has kept commercial fisheries out of Haida waters ever since.[19]

Williams-Davidson has published numerous works on aboriginal law and lectures all over the world.[20][21][22] On top of founding EAGLE in 1996, Williams-Davidson has acted as an Advisory Council member of the Vancouver Foundation's Environment Program, as a Juror for the Ecotrust Canada Buffet Award for Indigenous Leadership and as a board member of Ecotrust Canada and the Earthlife Canada Foundation (Gowgaia Institute).[14]

In May 2012, Williams-Davidson appeared on the cover of The Advocate,[23] a journal published by the Vancouver Bar Association. Appearing on the cover is seen as a great milestone in a British Columbia lawyer's life. Williams-Davidson is one of only three Indigenous lawyers to have appeared on the cover, with the other two being former Lieutenant Governor Steven Point and Member of Parliament Jodi Wilson-Raybould.

In 2014, Williams-Davidson won the Peoples Choice Andrew Thompson award for her contributions in the fields of environmental and Aboriginal law.[24]

Art as cultural preservationEdit

Having originally begun singing in Haida at 13, Williams-Davidson continues to immerse herself in the preservation and creation of Haida song and dance. In 1996, she joined the Rainbow Creek Dancers: a Haida dance group which performs traditional song and dance both in Haida Gwaii and around the world.[10] She has been a member of the Haida Gwaii Singers society, a group that focuses on educating people on the rich musical traditions of the Haida, since 2000.[25] In 2009, the group released the "Songs of Haida Gwaii Archival Anthology", a 7 CD box set featuring recordings dating back as far back as the early 1900s. Williams-Davidson volunteered as Executive Producer, researcher, writer and fundraiser for the project which digitized all locatable songs from Haida Gwaii, a massively ambitious project that resulted in the preservation of over 450 Haida songs.[26] Williams-Davidson won a "Keeper of Traditions" award at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards for her work on the project.[27]

Williams-Davidson released her first solo album "Lalaxaaygans: Beautiful Sound" in 2008. The record was part of the Haida Gwaii Singers Contemporary Anthology, a collection of contemporary records composed of ancient Haida songs performed by members of the Haida Gwaii Singers society.[5] The album won her the "Best Female Traditional/Cultural Roots" award at the 2009 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.[28]

In 2011, Williams-Davidson released her second solo album "New Journeys". The album featured guitars, piano, cello and percussion, creating a fusion between cultures that hadn't been previously explored in Haida music, which is traditionally sung without melodic accompaniment. While the songs are predominantly contemporary, they are sung in Haida and in many cases abide by traditional Haida song structures, with many of the pieces featuring only three notes.[29] The album was released to high acclaim and netted Williams-Davidson a number of awards including a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award and a Western Canadian Music Awards nomination.[30]

Williams-Davidson released her third album "Grizzly Bear Town" in 2017. The record featured instrumentation and vocals from Chilliwack's Bill Henderson and Claire Lawrence and continued to develop on Williams-Davidson's concept of fusing the Haida language with contemporary lyrics and arrangements. The album's name "Grizzly Bear Town" is another name for Skedans, the birth village of her maternal great-grandmother, Susan Williams.[31]

In 2017, Williams-Davidson wrote "Out of Concealment",[32][33][34] a book of surreal photo montages that celebrate the female supernatural beings of Haida oral tradition.

In 2019, Williams-Davidson, alongside her stepdaughter Sara Florence Davidson, published a children's book titled "Magical Beings of Haida Gwaii" which features ten supernatural beings of ancient Haida storytelling and presents them in a visual medium that engages children and teaches them empowering and meaningful examples of living in balance with nature.[35][36]

Williams-Davidson is also the creator of the Haida Box of Knowledge, an Oracle Deck of 34 cards featuring Haida Gwaii's female supernatural beings. The cards also feature art by Robert Davidson and share the knowledge and wisdom attributed to each of the female figures passed down through traditional Haida oral narratives.[37]


  1. ^ "Haida beings come to unguarded new life in Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson's striking work". The Georgia Straight. November 6, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  2. ^ "Advocacy". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  3. ^ "'Heavy oil today, anything else tomorrow': Supreme Court crushes B.C. bid to regulate Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline - APTN NewsAPTN News". aptnnews.ca. January 16, 2020. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  4. ^ Takeda, Louise (2015). Islands' spirit rising : reclaiming the forests of Haida Gwaii. Vancouver. ISBN 978-0-7748-2765-2. OCLC 865158392.
  5. ^ a b "Haida Gwaii Singers Anthology". Haida Gwaii Singers Society. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  6. ^ "New Journeys". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  7. ^ "New Album - "Grizzly Bear Town"". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  8. ^ "Magical Beings of Haida Gwaii". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  9. ^ MyVanCity (October 8, 2019). "Bill Reid Gallery Explores Supernatural Beings & Feminine Power in Multimedia Exhibition". My VanCity. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c "About". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  11. ^ "Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson". Lannan Foundation. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  12. ^ Jones, Kwiaahwah (July 2010). "Breathing Fire into Who We Are" (PDF). Haida Laas. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  13. ^ testifyAdmin. "Robert Davidson // Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson |". Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Our Team". White Raven Law. Retrieved March 11, 2020.
  15. ^ Drum, First Nations; December 28; 2002 (December 29, 2002). "Haida Launch Aboriginal Title Case in BC Supreme Court". First Nations Drum Newspaper. Retrieved May 1, 2020.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ "Why are Indigenous rights part of climate action? And other questions about UNDRIP". Environmental Defence. November 18, 2019. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  17. ^ News (March 26, 2004). ""We won't lose" says Guujaaw after Supreme Court appearance". Haida Gwaii Observer. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  18. ^ "Injunctions: Haida Nation v. Canada (Fisheries and Oceans) | Ng Ariss Fong". Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  19. ^ "Haida Nation Lawyer for the Ages: Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson". The Sealives Initiative. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  20. ^ Moore, Jonathan W.; Nowlan, Linda; Olszynski, Martin; Jacob, Aerin L.; Favaro, Brett; Collins, Lynda; Williams-Davidson, G. L. Terri-Lynn; Weitz, Jill (April 9, 2018). "Towards linking environmental law and science". FACETS. 3: 375–391. doi:10.1139/facets-2017-0106.
  21. ^ Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson (November 2012). "Weaving Together Our Future: The Interaction of Haida Laws to Achieve Respectful Co-Existence" (PDF). The Continuing Legal Education Society of BC: 14. Retrieved May 1, 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ Williams-Davidson, Terri-Lynn (1995). "Cultural Perpetuation: Repatriation of First Nations Cultural Heritage" (PDF). UBC Law Review: 18.
  23. ^ "The Advocate | Covers Gallery". www.the-advocate.ca. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  24. ^ "Leading Haida Lawyer and Gitanyow Hereditary Chief Joint Winners of 2014 Andrew Thompson Award". West Coast Environmental Law. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  25. ^ "Haida Gwaii Singers Society". Haida Gwaii Singers Society. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  26. ^ News (July 24, 2009). "Traditional songs are top iTunes choice for some". Haida Gwaii Observer. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  27. ^ News (October 21, 2008). "Islander to be honoured at music awards". Haida Gwaii Observer. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  28. ^ "Haida singer's sound is sweeter still". Ammsa.com. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  29. ^ "New Journeys". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  30. ^ Marchand, Francois (June 5, 2012). "Said The Whale, Dan Mangan top 2012 Western Canadian Music Awards nominations". Vancouver Sun. Vancouver BC. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  31. ^ "New Album - "Grizzly Bear Town"". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  32. ^ Williams-Davidson, Terri-Lynn (2017). Out of Concealment: Female Supernatural Beings of Haida Gwaii. Heritage. ISBN 978-1-77203-160-7.
  33. ^ Gallery, Bill Reid; October 11; 2019 (October 11, 2019). "Bill Reid Gallery Celebrates Indigenous Feminine Power in Vancouver Premiere of Out of Concealment". First Nations Drum Newspaper. Retrieved May 1, 2020.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ "Out of Concealment – The interconnectedness of femininity, the supernatural, and the environment". The Source. October 22, 2019. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  35. ^ "Magical Beings of Haida Gwaii". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  36. ^ "B.C.: 15 bestselling books for the week of March 21". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  37. ^ "Haida Box of Knowledge". Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. Retrieved March 29, 2020.