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Biography & Autobiography Native Americans

So You Girls Remember That

Memories of a Haida Elder

by (author) Gaadgas Nora Bellis

with Jenny Nelson

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Apr 2022
Native Americans, Native American, Indigenous Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2022
    List Price

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Collected wisdoms, reflections and stories from Indigenous Elder Naanii Nora of the Haida Nation.

So You Girls Remember That is an oral history of a Haida Elder, Naanii Nora, who lived from 1902 to 1997. A collaborative effort, this project was initiated and guided by Charlie Bellis and Maureen McNamara and was years in the making. The resulting book, compiled by Jenny Nelson, is a window into Nora’s life and her family—from the young girl singing all day in the canoe, bossing her brothers around or crossing Hecate Strait on her dad’s schooner, to the young woman making her way in the new white settlers’ town up the inlet, with music always a refrain. These are stories of childhood; of people and place, seasons and change; life stages and transitions such as moving and marriage; and Haida songs and meanings.

This book also contains the larger story of Nora’s times, a representation of changing political relationships between Canada and the Haida people and a personal part of the Haida tale.

What ultimately shines through is Nora’s singular and dynamic voice speaking with the wisdom of years. For example, on giving advice she says: “I like to give anybody advice because when you’re young you don’t know nothing on this world. What’s coming; what’s going … You have to remember it’s a steep hill; you’re right on the top. You slide down anytime if you don’t be careful.”

This is a work of great generosity, expressing Nora’s spirit of living—her joy, humour, spirituality and resourcefulness; her love of children, music and social life; her kindness, strong will and creativity; and her spirit that has nurtured a community and endures to this day.

Royalties will be donated to the Carl Hart Legacy Trust through the Haida Gwaii Community Foundation, to support the Rediscovery Camp at T'aalan Stl'ang.

About the authors

Gaadgas Nora Bellis, storyteller and Haida Elder, was born in 1902 in Old Massett at the north end of Graham Island, by the mouth of Massett Inlet. Later she was one of the first Haida to live in New Masset, the new white settlers’ town farther up the shore. Naanii Nora died in 1997 in Queen Charlotte City Hospital.

Gaadgas Nora Bellis' profile page

Jenny Nelson was raised in Fergus, Ontario. She has worked in the fields of environmental restoration and education. She lives at the north end of Haida Gwaii, down by the docks.

Jenny Nelson's profile page

Excerpt: So You Girls Remember That: Memories of a Haida Elder (by (author) Gaadgas Nora Bellis; with Jenny Nelson)

“Nora and I were sitting at an outdoor table at a cafe in Queen Charlotte village...Nora held her glass mug of tea up to the sunlight. The amber tea glowed. Nora smiled. ‘The tea is so pretty. It’s just like a song.’”

Editorial Reviews

"Reading my Nanny’s stories in So You Girls Remember That, filled me with emotions. It brought me back to Nanny’s strong warm hugs and her cheeky demeanor, memories of her cluttered house and all the time spent with her. As a Haida, and a father, I worry about the rapidly advancing world, where we are now and where we’re heading. Nanny has laid the blueprint for tackling such worries. Her words remind us to always believe in ourselves, and that love of family and community are essential, not only for survival but also for the flourishing of love, laughter and music."

Tyler Hugh Charlie Bellis, played the melodica in grades 6 and 7 at Tahayghen elementary school

"You can tell if someone has ever met Naanii Nora Brown Bellis Yahgulanaas as the mere mention of her name will make them smile."

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, author of <i>Carpe Fin: A Haida Manga</i>