On Fri­day Ju­ly 13th I was sit­ting un­der trees look­ing at the ocean and I thought “This is maybe the nicest place I’ve ev­er been.” The beach was at Tanu (T'aanuu ll­na­gaay in the Hai­da lan­guage), which is here. In front of me, the He­cate Strait, much hat­ed by West Coast mariner­s. Be­hind me, the old Hai­da vil­lage site, with in­ter­est­ing me­men­to mori: a mass grave of fifty or so small­pox vic­tim­s, and the beau­ti­ful mod­ern grave­stone of Bill Reid. Flow­ing over me, a breeze of what struck me as the fresh­est, cleanest, nicest air I have ev­er breathed. This was on the last day of our Hai­da Gwai­i, uh, let me see, I can hard­ly call it an ad­ven­ture af­ter all that. But it sort of was.

Hai­da Gwaii is a waterspout-shaped tri­an­gle of Is­lands 70km off Canada’s left coast right up where it meets the Alas­ka Pan­han­dle, a two-hour pud­dle­jumper flight from Van­cou­ver. Most­ly it’s cool and grey and wet and stormy; but we soaked up five days of mild breezes, most­ly sun­l­it, and came back with pic­tures, but words have been hard to come by, they seem in­ad­e­quate.

I’ve pic­tures enough for a few en­tries, so I’ll talk about lo­gis­tics and pho­tog­ra­phy and so on lat­er; to­day just Tanu.

Trees and beach at Tanu

Pix­el 2, 1/2300 sec at f/1.8, ISO 54

Tanu is in Gwaii Haanas (of­fi­cial­ly: Gwaii Haanas Na­tion­al Park Re­serve and Hai­da Her­itage Site); one of five Hai­da vil­lage sites where there’s a watch house staffed by Hai­da Watch­men, who’ll wel­come you, give you a tour, and stamp your vis­i­tor book. Some of the watch­men are wom­en and all the ones we met were aw­ful­ly nice.

One of them at Tanu had her lit­tle niece vis­it­ing, a high-energy girl with a love­ly native-flavored name; here she is with my daugh­ter.

Girls at Tanu

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/200 sec at f/1.8, ISO 200

The Hai­da sto­ry, like that of darker-skinned abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples wher­ev­er my pale an­ces­tors showed up, is pret­ty sad: Disease, op­pres­sion, pros­e­ly­ti­za­tion, ex­pro­pri­a­tion. I’ve heard it said, by white ur­ban­ites like me, that to­day the Hai­da na­tion is gen­er­al­ly bet­ter off than many oth­er First Na­tion­s; but don’t take my word for it.

Here’s part of the old vil­lage site; house beams un­der that moss. Be­cause of the mass small­pox grave, some of the Hai­da Watch­men don’t like to work here; there are ghost sto­ries. Bill Reid’s fam­i­ly re­quests that his grave not be pho­tographed, but it’s a fine, mod­est, unas­sum­ing piece of work.

Part of the Tanu village site

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/220 sec at f/5.0, ISO 200

Should you ev­er vis­it Tanu (and you should if you get the slight­est chance), here’s a tip. Walk down to the right (fac­ing the sea) end of the beach, where there’s a lit­tle mossy rise with a few trees.

At the south end of the beach at Tanu

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/105 sec at f/8.0, ISO 200

Even bet­ter, take your sweet­ie along for some pri­vate time.

For me the main at­trac­tion of Gwaii Haanas is the won­der­ful, won­der­ful trees and their forest-floor neigh­bors. Many of my pic­tures are about their huge scale, but they’re strik­ing in the small as well. Every­thing has moss on it.

Mossy tree at Tanu

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/80 sec at f/4.0, ISO 200

I’ll sign off with the same pic­ture twice.

Ferns in context

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/200 sec at f/4.0, ISO 200

Ferns in sun

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/60 sec at f/8.0, ISO 500

Real­ly, if you’re any­where near the top left cor­ner of the New World you should go vis­it Hai­da Gwai­i. Next time out I’ll ex­plain how.


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From: John Cowan (Jul 20 2018, at 23:49)

The Haida were pretty effective oppressors and expropriators themselves. They have been called the Vikings of the Pacific Northwest, raiding other peoples and taking slaves, who constituted perhaps 25% of their population. Unlike in most Native peoples, slavery was hereditary, as in the American South. The usual 90% death rate from greenfield smallpox mostly stopped this, but not before a few shiploads of European-descended sailors had been taken as slaves and some whole Native peoples wiped out.


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July 20, 2018
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