Day 35 Haida Gwaii Friday 22nd May 2015
We wake up to a nice summery day in QCC and decide to breakfast at what seems to be the only game in town-Queen B’s.We order pancakes and then sit outside looking at the water and listening to a group of good ole’ boys picking on each other.They are pretty friendly and want to know where we are from.One in particular tells us he used to go marlin fishing in Cairns.
We decide to walk to Skidegate to the Haida Museum especially as the weather was so nice.We amble along and have a good view of Greenpeace “MY Esperanza” which was there to show solidarity with the communities of Haida Gwaii in stopping oil tankers from going along the coast bringing oil from northern Canada.
From the number of signs we saw it appears the local community is clearly against it.And in fact one of the First Nation communities near Prince Rupert had rejected an offer of a billion dollars to build a LNG plant on an island they are claiming rights to.
Anyway on to Skidegate a nice walk along side the water of about 5 kms one way.A surprise was the free lending library Mel discovered along the way. (Picture above)
The heritage centre had great displays and told the local story of the formotion of the Council for the Haida Nation and how it had been formed in 1974 to protect land rights ( which are still being fought out in the courts they had a major win by gaining a national park (Gwaii Haanas) out of resistance to logging in the mid-eighties.It also chronicled the advent of smallpox into the various communities and how they had been made to move to Skidegate and and Old Masset ( note these are the English names).
Also explored was the impact of the residential school system and the removal of children to those schools.This has been the subject of a recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission which just handed down its report.
On the cutural side favourite part was the display of a new bentwood box simply called the ‘New Great Box’ which was a replica built in the traditional way by Haida carvers of a box held in Oxford,UK.Not sure what it is doing there but the replica was beautiful.
These boxes have caught my imagination as they are produced by the use of one piece of wood bent into the shape which seems to be impossible given the thickness of the cedar but the resulting workmanship and designs are outstanding.The following video shows the Haida artists actually bending the wood for a blank box to take to the UK so they could carve an an ax act replica and learn how the original artist created it.I found it mesmerising.
In the foyer was a metal shape hanging from the ceiling in the entrance hall we learnt that this was a “copper’ and signified wealth.
It was owned by a chief who in fact may have many and these we saw later represented on poles outside houses.They were used as currency and pieces could be taken off and given to others.It had a T shape which represented the strength of the chief the I representing his back and the cross bar representing his shoulders.
A copper shield.
The museum is situated facing the beach with a small island just off shore along with some poles again the linkage of the Haida people with the sea is quite clear.
There was much excitement as Mel thought she saw a beaver crossing the road.Turns out it was probably a river otter-exciting never the less.
We headed for home had multiple beers and pizza at OV again and met with the couple from Perth who we had chatted to in Prince Rupert.
Off to bed to get ready for our early morning wake up call to go on our boating expedition to Gwaii Haanas National Park.