The Haida relationship to the ocean is timeless and has its roots in an era before time began, when Raven coaxed the first humans out of a clam shell on a beach at Naikun (Rose Spit) on the northern extremity of Haida Gwaii.

"Haida culture is not simply song and dance, graven images, stories, language or even blood. It is all of those things and then...waking up on Haida Gwaii anticipating the season when the herring spawns. It is a feeling you get when you bring a feed of cockles to the old people, and when you are fixing up fish for the smokehouse, or when walking on barnacles or moss.

"It is about being confronted with winter storms and trying to look after this precious place. All that we say is ours is of Haida Gwaii. This is our lot, our heritage, our life...and one of the world’s great cultures.

"Look past the written word and you will find yourself in a world whose fate is intimately tied to the ocean people, the sky people, and the forest people."

-Guujaaw, Haida artist, gak’yaals qiigawaay clan
The Haida relationship to the ocean is timeless and has its roots in an era before time began, when Raven coaxed the first humans out of a clam shell on a beach at Naikun (Rose Spit) on the northern extremity of Haida Gwaii.

"Haida culture is not simply song and dance, graven images, stories, language or even blood. It is all of those things and then...waking up on Haida Gwaii anticipating the season when the herring spawns. It is a feeling you get when you bring a feed of cockles to the old people, and when you are fixing up fish for the smokehouse, or when walking on barnacles or moss.

"It is about being confronted with winter storms and trying to look after this precious place. All that we say is ours is of Haida Gwaii. This is our lot, our heritage, our life...and one of the world’s great cultures.

"Look past the written word and you will find yourself in a world whose fate is intimately tied to the ocean people, the sky people, and the forest people."

-Guujaaw, Haida artist, gak’yaals qiigawaay clan

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Photo

Guujaaw at work on The Raven and the First Men, sculpture in yellow cedar by Bill Reid, 1979.

Photo : Gitsga

© Gitsga


Sculpture

Raven carved by Fred Davis.

Sculpture by Fred Davis
Photo: Courtesy of Derek Simpkins Gallery

© Derek Simpkins Gallery


Until the turn of the 19th century, the Haidas’ distinctive ocean-going canoe was at the heart of their connections to the sea. Carved from giant red cedars and steamed into the classical Haida canoe form, these canoes were a vital aspect of Haida culture and economy, facilitating long distance travel, offshore fishing and sea mammal hunting.

Haida canoes, some as long as sixty feet, were prized as superior ocean-going craft all up and down the north Pacific coast, and were the major trade item offered by the Haida to their First Nations neighbours on the mainland.
Until the turn of the 19th century, the Haidas’ distinctive ocean-going canoe was at the heart of their connections to the sea. Carved from giant red cedars and steamed into the classical Haida canoe form, these canoes were a vital aspect of Haida culture and economy, facilitating long distance travel, offshore fishing and sea mammal hunting.

Haida canoes, some as long as sixty feet, were prized as superior ocean-going craft all up and down the north Pacific coast, and were the major trade item offered by the Haida to their First Nations neighbours on the mainland.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Photo

Reg and Robert Davidson at Yakoun River.

Photo: Rolf Bettner

© Rolf Bettner


Photo

Launch of Bill Reid's canoe Lootaas.

Photo: Jackie Gjissen
U.B.C. Museum of Anthroplogy photo collection

© U.B.C. Museum of Anthroplogy


The ocean is the source of most traditional foods. This encompasses a wide array, including cod, halibut and tuna harvested from offshore fishing grounds, salmon caught at the river mouths, herring and herring roe, and numerous species of both intertidal invertebrates and sea weeds. Historically, seals, sea otters and sea lions were hunted for both meat and the use of sinew and hides.
The ocean is the source of most traditional foods. This encompasses a wide array, including cod, halibut and tuna harvested from offshore fishing grounds, salmon caught at the river mouths, herring and herring roe, and numerous species of both intertidal invertebrates and sea weeds. Historically, seals, sea otters and sea lions were hunted for both meat and the use of sinew and hides.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Photo

Salmon drying at Yakoun River. Yakoun: River of Life, The Council of Haida Nations, 1990.

Photo: Rolf Bettner

© Rolf Bettner


In Haida it is said, "Ginn 7waadluwaan gud7ahl Kwaagiidang"--everything depends on everything else.

"Every living animal and plant on the islands is somehow linked to the sea and its life patterns, often more directly than we might imagine."
-David Denning, marine biologist
In Haida it is said, "Ginn 7waadluwaan gud7ahl Kwaagiidang"--everything depends on everything else.

"Every living animal and plant on the islands is somehow linked to the sea and its life patterns, often more directly than we might imagine."
-David Denning, marine biologist

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Photo of Village

Reverend Lily Bell and Marina Jones at the Return of the Salmon Ceremony, Yakoun River.

Photo: Maureen McNamara
Yakoun: River of Life, Council of the Haida Nation, 1990.

© Council of the Haida Nation, 1990.


Learning Objectives

The learner :
  • Describe the relationship between Haida people and the ocean, in an ecological context
  • Describe the form and function of the Haida canoe

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