Today, Haidas still enjoy the traditional seafood of our Haida Gwaii homeland.
In spring and summer, Haida communities busily prepare salmon, halibut, herring roe on kelp, seaweed and other nutritious treats from the Pacific Ocean. Herring roe on kelp, called "k’aaw," is among the most highly valued foods in the Haida community. This specialty item is sought all over the world!

Razor clams are another delicacy prepared often in Haida kitchens. When the clam-digging season starts, the village of Old Massett empties, as truckloads of clam diggers head to Tow Hill. Whole families go to the beach for the day, clam digging and picnicking together.
Today, Haidas still enjoy the traditional seafood of our Haida Gwaii homeland.
In spring and summer, Haida communities busily prepare salmon, halibut, herring roe on kelp, seaweed and other nutritious treats from the Pacific Ocean. Herring roe on kelp, called "k’aaw," is among the most highly valued foods in the Haida community. This specialty item is sought all over the world!

Razor clams are another delicacy prepared often in Haida kitchens. When the clam-digging season starts, the village of Old Massett empties, as truckloads of clam diggers head to Tow Hill. Whole families go to the beach for the day, clam digging and picnicking together.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Drying Herring Roe

Herring roe on kelp drying in Stevens' backyard, Skidegate; 1978.

Photo: Marilyn Chechik
Royal British Columbia Museum
c. 1978
PN 13866-87
© Royal British Columbia Museum


Child with k'aaw

Amy Hans with k'aaw (herring roe on kelp).

Photo: Courtesy of Haida Gwaii Diabetes Project

© Haida Gwaii Diabetes Project


Razor Clam

A type of clam found often in Haida kitchens.

Photo: Gwail Haanas

© Gwail Haanas


Basket

Haida spruce root basket for harvesting clams.

Photo: Canadian Museum of Civilization

VII-8-573
© Canadian Museum of Civilization


"When I was a child, my uncle used to pay me five dollars for a day’s work of stomping in the sand to summon the clams, and picking up the clams that he dug. When we got home, I learned how to clean clams by watching my naanii (grandmother), mom and aunts."
-Lucille Bell, Tsiij Giitanay Eagle, Clan, 1997.
"When I was a child, my uncle used to pay me five dollars for a day’s work of stomping in the sand to summon the clams, and picking up the clams that he dug. When we got home, I learned how to clean clams by watching my naanii (grandmother), mom and aunts."
-Lucille Bell, Tsiij Giitanay Eagle, Clan, 1997.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Digging for Clams

Mamie Jones clam digging at Tow Hill.

Photo: Rosa Bell

© Rosa Bell


Cleaning Clams

Rosa Bell and Adeline Penna cleaning razor clams.

Photo: Lucille Bell

© Lucille Bell


Haida families continue to return to the traditional rivers for food, a sense of community and spiritual renewal.

Elders especially look forward to the month of May, when their families go to the Yakoun and Copper Bay for fresh sockeye.

Dried, frozen, canned or smoked, Haida Gwaii’s delicious warm-weather harvest is eaten year-round. Seafoods preserved for the winter months often end up on the table at the many winter feasts.
Haida families continue to return to the traditional rivers for food, a sense of community and spiritual renewal.

Elders especially look forward to the month of May, when their families go to the Yakoun and Copper Bay for fresh sockeye.

Dried, frozen, canned or smoked, Haida Gwaii’s delicious warm-weather harvest is eaten year-round. Seafoods preserved for the winter months often end up on the table at the many winter feasts.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Catch

Judd Brown and Rick McDonald with their catch.

Photo: Courtesy of Haida Gwaii Diabetes Project

© Haida Gwaii Diabetes Project


pantry

Pantry in Skidegate with winter preserves.

Photo: Donald Goodes

© Donald Goodes


River Mouth

Spring fishing at the mouth of the Yakoun River.

Photo: Rolf Bettner
Yakoun: River of Life, Council of the Haida Nation, 1990.

© Council of the Haida Nation, 1990.


Food has always been at the centre of Haida social life. When families gather together to harvest food, it’s a happy time. Ernie Collison describes the old people as "...always laughing and teasing each other and having a lot of fun. Part of the enjoyment came from the food we gathered from the waters and the land."
-Ernie Collison, Tsiij Giitanay, Eagle Clan, 1993.

A family who gives away traditional foods is considered wealthy and generous.
"The Haida people really like to share. That is the way I know my people are."
-Ethel Jones, elder of the Kuun Laanaas Raven Clan, 1993.
Food has always been at the centre of Haida social life. When families gather together to harvest food, it’s a happy time. Ernie Collison describes the old people as "...always laughing and teasing each other and having a lot of fun. Part of the enjoyment came from the food we gathered from the waters and the land."
-Ernie Collison, Tsiij Giitanay, Eagle Clan, 1993.

A family who gives away traditional foods is considered wealthy and generous.
"The Haida people really like to share. That is the way I know my people are."
-Ethel Jones, elder of the Kuun Laanaas Raven Clan, 1993.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Skidegate Feast

Skidegate Feast

Photo: Barb Wilson

© Barb Wilson


Salmon preparation

Phyllis Bedard preparing salmon.

Photo : Andrea Dixon
Yakoun: River of Life, Council of the Haida Nation, 1990.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


The Haida understand that to ensure that these foods return each year the environment must be respected by all.

"Anytime food was gathered, there was always thanks given to it... It provided life to everybody and it was really respected because it is life itself."
-John Yeltatzie, Gaawaas Eagle Clan, 1996.

Logging and mining on Haida Gwaii affect the ocean and rivers, as well as the land!

For the Haida to be healthy, the rivers and forest must be healthy too.

Conserving the delicate balance of the Haida Gwaii environment will ensure that future generations continue to eat from the sea.
The Haida understand that to ensure that these foods return each year the environment must be respected by all.

"Anytime food was gathered, there was always thanks given to it... It provided life to everybody and it was really respected because it is life itself."
-John Yeltatzie, Gaawaas Eagle Clan, 1996.

Logging and mining on Haida Gwaii affect the ocean and rivers, as well as the land!

For the Haida to be healthy, the rivers and forest must be healthy too.

Conserving the delicate balance of the Haida Gwaii environment will ensure that future generations continue to eat from the sea.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Describe the traditional food and food gathering technology of the Haida people
  • Identify the relationship between Haida people and their environment, in an ecological context

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