Thursday, July 20, 2017

Haida Gwaii: "Islands of the People"

The Haida Gwaii archipelago lies fifty to a hundred and fifty kilometers off the northwest coast of British Columbia. These remote islands - more than 400 - provide the traveller with an opportunity to explore a stunning ancient landscape with powerful reminders of First Nations culture. The two main islands are Graham Island to the North and Moresby Island in the South.

The Haida people have inhabited these islands for more than 12, 500 years. Today the gradually decaying remnants of vanishing villages can be visited in the protected, and now largely uninhabited southern portion of Moresby Island known as Gwaii Haanas (Islands of Beauty).

Since 1993, Gwaii Haanas has been jointly managed by the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada. This remarkable place is a designated Haida Heritage Site, a National Park Reserve and a National Marine Conservation Area Reserve.

It is an honour to have visited this awe-inspiring sacred landscape.

Haida Gwaii Watchmen welcome visitors and act as guardians of the Haida Heritage Sites.

Rapacious industrial logging practices borne of the greed and cultural disregard associated with ongoing colonization was threatening the survival of this beautiful Land and her People. Clear-cuts were destroying what were then still called The Queen Charlotte Islands.

Protests against logging began in earnest in 1985. The Haida people and their non-aboriginal supporters were arrested for blocking loggers and their vehicles. Civil disobedience eventually led to the cessation of logging and the protected ecosystem we see today.

Sgang Gwaay (Anthony Island)  on the southwest coast of Hoida Gwaii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Legacy Pole was carved by Jaalen Edenshaw and was raised at Windy Bay on Lyell Island in 2013 to commemorate 20 years of cooperative management of  Gwaii Haanas between the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada. It was the first monumental pole raised here in 130 years. The figures represent the brave protesters who locked arms and stood their ground in actions which led to the preservation of this precious land. 

Given that Haida Gwaii is in BC, a playful nonconformist sensibility lives harmoniously and  respectfully side by side the region's indigenous culture. The Moon Over Naikoon Bakery housed in a repurposed, funky old school bus serves delicious baked goods and organic coffee.

Perfect after a long stroll on nearby North Beach on Graham Island.

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