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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back from Northern BC

My most-of-a-month in Northern BC ended with a week on Haida Gwaii. This group of islands, traditional lands of the Haida people, is an amazing place. Probably should be on people's 10 PLACES TO GO BEFORE I DIE list... I was working there the first few days and tourist the next.

Sunsets at 11:30 p.m. So many eagles that they are commonplace (I counted 19 at once on the beach in front of my room). Long open ocean beaches, without a soul in sight. Tall cedars, covered in moss as thick as a quilt. Sealife abounds - salmon to 40 pounds, crabs on every menu, orcas, sea lions, seals, whales and dolphins in the bays.

And most interesting - the Haida people are a strong presence, physically, historically and as at least half the population. When initial contact occurred, mostly in the late 1800's, their network of villages was devastated, by smallpox, by religion (my opinion), residential schooling and the intentional destruction of their culture. Although they have many problems to deal with, there is a strong sense of optimism and a treaty process underway.

A friend and I spent a day travelling by boat to Kuunu (Skedans), an abandoned Haida village that has the remains of poles, longhouses and the spirits of generations of people. Haida Watchmen live on the island, granting permission to visit and protecting what remains of the village.

Here is a taste in a few photos:

North Beach - 25 miles of empty fullness

Poles in Kuunu

David and Wilfred (ask me!)

Ancient alder

Hello, Gary.
I believe I can tell which one is the Jew and which one's the Saxon, but do please tell, who is this David and Wilfred?
I asking too!

You're right, it's absolutely gorgeous and I think I might have to get there!
Okay - you asked.

David is the Senior Medical Health Officer (public health doc) for Northern BC. In his younger days he was living on Haida Gwaii, first in a driftwood house on the beach, then a self-built homestead on an island. He raised a family there for 12 years before heading to the mainland and a less bohemian/hippy life doctor life.

While there he became friends with mountain man Wilfred. Wilfred has been there for decades - he is a wood carver, healer, gardener, herbalist, story-teller, bare-footed mountain climber (honest) and a twinkly and insightful guy.

While there, David took us for a visit to Wilfred's gnome-house in the woods. We had homemade elder flower champagne to celebrate.

We also hiked, mud-slogged and canoed into David's old cabin one. There are photos!
More beautiful places to explore! You make it sound wonderful and peaceful.
Aha! The explanation.

Great pics, as usual Gary. But that tree is really my favorite. Bet you've been having a great time.
David sounds cool and Wilfred is fascinating.

The Haida people sound very interesting, too. How much of their culture have they retained?

Good stuff, G.
Yes, excellent photos.
But tell us more about the champagne. Does it taste much like the scent, or is it remarkably different?
Makes me feel like brewing something....
A fascinating post of a beautiful but sorrowful place.
Best wishes
I have been absent for too long due to kids' holidays being at home and me having no down time to be online in peace.
WOW. That does sound like an awesome place to visit (I always loved the haida art and at the natural museum in Ottawa, well across the river in Gatineau, they had at one time a haida house built that used no nails whatsoever. it was beautiful. And speaking of which.. what an AWEsome Tree picture! Straight out of some fantasy book, or harry potter or lord of the rings.. now that is a tree to speak to...I love that picture!

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