From food fishing in dugout cedar canoes to commercial fishing in seiners, Haida fishermen have reaped the benefits of the Pacific Ocean with great skill and respect.
From food fishing in dugout cedar canoes to commercial fishing in seiners, Haida fishermen have reaped the benefits of the Pacific Ocean with great skill and respect.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Club

Haida club made of bone or ivory; head of club carved in the shape of a fish; late 19th Century.

Photo: Royal British Columbia Museum

© Royal British Columbia Museum


Fish Hook

Haida halibut hook; yew and alder; u-shaped iron point; carved flat-billed bird. Collected by CF Newcombe at Massett in 1911

Photo: Royal British Columbia Museum

CPN 1470
© Royal British Columbia Museum


boats

Village of Hoona, Alaska; 1888. Royal British Columbia Museum

Photo: G.T. Emmons
Royal British Columbia Museum
c. 1888
PN 1577
© Royal British Columbia Museum


Fishing boat

Seiner letting out the net.

Photo: Allan Wilson

© Allan Wilson


"Ever since there has been red cedar on Haida Gwaii, Haidas have built our own boats. Boat builders never wasted anything when they built boats. They would only cut down a tree if they could use the whole thing.

"The boat builders used to edge the planks to bear the weight. They also had the ability to grasp the concepts of lofting, the drawing out of boats on paper."
-John Bennett, 1997.
"Ever since there has been red cedar on Haida Gwaii, Haidas have built our own boats. Boat builders never wasted anything when they built boats. They would only cut down a tree if they could use the whole thing.

"The boat builders used to edge the planks to bear the weight. They also had the ability to grasp the concepts of lofting, the drawing out of boats on paper."
-John Bennett, 1997.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Canoe building

Canoe making near Massett, 1897.

Photo: possibly by J.H.Keen
Royal British Columbia Museum

PN 5409
© Royal British Columbia Museum


Canoe

John Bennett's row boat.

Photo : John Bennett

© John Bennett


In the old times, sea-going vessels were needed for trade with other tribes. Canoes full of seaweed, potatoes, and dried halibut were brought to neighbouring tribes to trade for their specialty foods.

A cash economy began with the fur trade (c.1800) and continued into the fish trade. There was money to be made in the fishing industry. The Haida already had the ingenuity to prosper in the commercial fishing climate of the early and mid 1900s. Thousands of years of knowledge and skills served them well.

The men built their own boats to fish, and the women worked in the many canneries on the island. At the height of commercial fishing, there were fifteen salmon canneries on Haida Gwaii, and over fifty Haida owned commercial vessels.
In the old times, sea-going vessels were needed for trade with other tribes. Canoes full of seaweed, potatoes, and dried halibut were brought to neighbouring tribes to trade for their specialty foods.

A cash economy began with the fur trade (c.1800) and continued into the fish trade. There was money to be made in the fishing industry. The Haida already had the ingenuity to prosper in the commercial fishing climate of the early and mid 1900s. Thousands of years of knowledge and skills served them well.

The men built their own boats to fish, and the women worked in the many canneries on the island. At the height of commercial fishing, there were fifteen salmon canneries on Haida Gwaii, and over fifty Haida owned commercial vessels.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Food Preparation

Haida woman dressing halibut meat at fish camp, c.1901.

Photo: Department of Mines

HP071714
© Department of Mines


Fishing

Herring fishing in Skidegate Inlet, 1897.

Photo: possibly by B.C. Freeman
Royal British Columbia Museum

PN 355
© Royal British Columbia Museum


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe the importance of fishing to Haida society throughout history

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