Haida Gwaii is the land of the Haida. They have lived on these islands since the beginning of time (scientifically documented back at least 10,000 years). At the time of contact with Europeans there were 30,000 Haida on these islands, a hundred years later there were just over 300. Along with their lives, their totem poles and regalia were taken by treasure hunters & museums or cut down and destroyed by church and government officials. Despite the near decimation of their people and culture the Haida are coming back. The heart of their resurgence is the Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay'llnagaay (Kaay means sealion, llnagaay means town). A dream of the Haida for more than twenty years the Centre offically opened last year. It encompasses the Haida Gwaii Museum, the Greeting House(with glass roof), the Eating House, the Performing House, the Bill Reid School of Art and the canoe and carving shed.
The village totem pole.
There are six house front poles, and one village pole. Traditionally the house front poles told the story of that house and would let a visitor know if they were welcome. There are three types of totems poles, house front poles, mortuary poles (holding the remains of persons of high esteem) and memorial poles(honouring those who had lost their lives by drowning or at war).
The village totem pole.
The Carving and Canoe shed has been a hive of activity over the past year with four canoes and several new totem poles being carved. Carver Marcel Russ works on a commissioned totem pole.Inside the Centre are some of the repatriated totems that have been returned from around the world, several of them over 200 years old.
Displays share what the pre-contact life of the Haida was like. This is a 3 foot model of a chief in full regalia.
A quiet and peaceful place in the museum to contemplate what it must have been like before we came!
The Bill Reid canoe "Loota" (wave eater) and a fibre glass copy (right) waiting to be launched.
At one point after Bill Reid's death the "Loota" was grounded as it was considered an original piece of art that had to be preserved, however Bill Reed did not carve it be dry docked, he wanted it to be used and so it is...
and if you are in the right place at the right time you can paddle the "Loota" and experience what it was like to travel these waters by canoe, singing and drumming(with paddles) to keep your pace.
To visit other interesting places from around the world join us at