While all those aboard the boats at anchor continued to work, it was time for us to play. We rowed… no... PADDLED… you paddle a canoe… ashore and poked around for evidence of the wolves. There were plenty of tracks, none too recent though. An epic canoe journey ensued, into moderate surf not suited to canoes, but we explored many small inlets and islets, and our beachcombing turned up evidence of more wolves, bears, mother-of-pearl, tiny snails, and some baleen from a whale. I’m an obsessed beachcomber, but only until the point where I become overwhelmed with too much stuff, and overboard it goes. Usually all at once.
Arriving with high hopes of a wolf sighting but leaving with mild disappointment, we set out across the
The Queen Charlottes have recently become known as Haida Gwaii, a closer resemblance of the original name of Xaadala Gwayee in recognition of the Haida Nation and to place less emphasis on their colonial past. We had heard from many that the West coast of the
We waited a week dockside in
It wasn’t all disappointment though. We met a Haida elder who was eager to share his stories, and he gave us a driving tour of his home town of Skidegate, described their matriarchal society and how all the remaining Haida (approximately 4000) all belong to one of two social groups, or moieties; Eagles or Ravens. There are more than 20 lineages that exist within each of the Eagle and Raven moieties, and an Eagle must marry a Raven, never a fellow Eagle, and any children belong to the same group as the mother. Members of any of the Haida lineages have certain entitlements of land, hunting and gathering areas, and other natural resources.
Our guide took us to a totem pole along the shore of the reserve that was carved in the 1970s by renowned Haida artist Bill Read, whose art is also depicted on the Canadian $20 bill. His ‘Jade Canoe’ sits in
The other end of the Center focuses on the geology, biology, and history of Haida Gwaii. Here I learned of the shocking practice of the 18th and 19th century explorers confiscating anything from art, general household items, family heirlooms, and even Haida remains as trophies which they sent or carried back to their homes in