The majority of objects, utensils, tools, etc. manufactured and used by our ancestors were made from plants of Haida Gwaii. About 30 different species were used to make everything including the monumental totem poles and Haida houses, canoes, containers of every description, clothing, toys, fishing equipment and nets, masks, gambling sticks, eating utensils and much more.
The majority of objects, utensils, tools, etc. manufactured and used by our ancestors were made from plants of Haida Gwaii. About 30 different species were used to make everything including the monumental totem poles and Haida houses, canoes, containers of every description, clothing, toys, fishing equipment and nets, masks, gambling sticks, eating utensils and much more.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Cedar showing ancient test hole in red cedar tree. The centre of the tree was tested and if found rotten, the tree was left standing.

Photo: Larry Thompson

© Larry Thompson


The most prevalent plant used was and continues to be Western Red Cedar, ts'uu (thuja plicata.) Cedar is the backbone of Haida manufacturing, providing the raw material for monumental poles, buildings, boxes, ceremonial headdresses, ocean-going canoes and hundreds of other objects carved from the wood. The bark is also used. Stripped from younger trees, the fine, inner bark is separated from the outer tough, fibrous layer. It is prepared and used for weaving a wide variety of matting, clothing and hats, baskets. Like plants used for food and medicine, plants such as cedar that provide valuable material are treated with respect. The spirit of the cedar is addressed and thanked when bark is being harvested or when a trunk is to be used for carving a pole or canoe. Today, tobacco is often offered when cedar boughs or bark are collected.
The most prevalent plant used was and continues to be Western Red Cedar, ts'uu (thuja plicata.) Cedar is the backbone of Haida manufacturing, providing the raw material for monumental poles, buildings, boxes, ceremonial headdresses, ocean-going canoes and hundreds of other objects carved from the wood. The bark is also used. Stripped from younger trees, the fine, inner bark is separated from the outer tough, fibrous layer. It is prepared and used for weaving a wide variety of matting, clothing and hats, baskets. Like plants used for food and medicine, plants such as cedar that provide valuable material are treated with respect. The spirit of the cedar is addressed and thanked when bark is being harvested or when a trunk is to be used for carving a pole or canoe. Today, tobacco is often offered when cedar boughs or bark are collected.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Tree

Red cedar

Photo: Haida Gwaii Museum

© Haida Gwaii Museum


Photo

Florence Davidson stripping bark from red cedar tree, 1976.

Photo: Ulli Steltzer

© Ulli Steltzer


Other plants important to Haida culture include: Yellow cedar, sgaalhaan , (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis.) Like Red Cedar, this tree provides valuable wood for carving smaller items, such as canoe paddles, masks, rattles, as well as bark for weaving, which is considered finer than Red cedar bark. The outer fibres of the Fireweed plant, tl'ellaal (Epilobium angustifolium) were formerly used to make fishing nets. Sitka Spruce, (Picea sitchensis) was used to make specialized fishhooks. The long, straight roots are the source of fibre for the fine spruce root weaving used for Haida hats and baskets.
Other plants important to Haida culture include: Yellow cedar, sgaalhaan , (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis.) Like Red Cedar, this tree provides valuable wood for carving smaller items, such as canoe paddles, masks, rattles, as well as bark for weaving, which is considered finer than Red cedar bark. The outer fibres of the Fireweed plant, tl'ellaal (Epilobium angustifolium) were formerly used to make fishing nets. Sitka Spruce, (Picea sitchensis) was used to make specialized fishhooks. The long, straight roots are the source of fibre for the fine spruce root weaving used for Haida hats and baskets.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Photo of Tree

Sitka spruce.

Photo: Haida Gwaii Museum

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Photo

Florence Davidson collecting spruce roots, 1976.

Photo: Ulli Steltzer

© Ulli Steltzer


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe the importance of plants to the art and technology of Haida people, using examples
  • Describe how the Western red cedar tree is used by Haida people
  • Describe how several wild plants and plant parts are harvested and utilized in art and technology by Haida people

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