I’m down to my last few pic­tures and sto­ries from our Ju­ly va­ca­tion in Hai­da Gwaii and Gwaii Haanas.

Two eagles in Gwaii Haanas

Fu­ji X-T2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8, 200m­m, 1/680 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

Most of our stops were at old Hai­da vil­lage sites. One of the high­light­s, aside from the totem poles, were the sites of the large hous­es; here’s a sam­ple:

Site of large house at an old Haida Village

Pix­el 2, 1/350 sec at f/1.8, ISO 50

The idea was, they dug down in­to the earth, then they put up a fair-size house on top. The steps down to the floor would pro­vide liv­ing and sleep­ing space; the fire would be in the mid­dle. The in­te­ri­or space was re­al­ly im­pres­sive; there are cool old pho­tos at the Cana­di­an Mu­se­um of His­to­ry.

Skedans and the Hot Springs · Our first Haida-village-site stop was at Skedans; a cou­ple of the lo­cals told us it should be called Q’una, but the lo­cal Watch­man (who was a wom­an) Carol Duck, called it “Skedans”, so I guess ei­ther work­s. Carol was ab­so­lute­ly great, and here’s a sto­ry. While we were there, the week­ly sup­ply boat pulled up, and there was a lot of chaos while they were un­load­ing their stuff. Carol climbed on the boat to vis­it with some­one; when it was pulling out, I no­ticed she hadn’t come back and men­tioned that to one of the lo­cal­s. He laughed and yelled at them and the boat turned around and brought her back. I guess one of the guys was her part­ner, be­cause an­oth­er man hollered out “he’s try­ing to take your wom­an away, just like one of those old Hai­da stories!” and there was a gen­er­al out­burst of hi­lar­i­ty; Carol (ev­ery­one called her “Duck”) wasn’t to­tal­ly amused.

Another stop worth men­tion­ing is Hot­spring Is­land, a to­tal­ly or­di­nary lit­tle place ex­cept for the geother­mal hot spring, down­stream of which they’ve built a bunch of hot tub­s, just above a sandy beach, so you can do the “chill your ass in the North Paci­fic, then bake it in the hot sul­phurous water” thing. A to­tal­ly re­lax­ing place to stop for lunch.

While we were there, an RCMP po­lice boat pulled up, with a cou­ple of per­son­able young of­fi­cer­s; they’d been on a train­ing pa­trol up and down the re­mote, storm­blown west coast of Hai­da Gwai­i, and bro­ken their boat in a cou­ple of places. In dis­tant com­mu­ni­ties like Hai­da Gwai­i, the RCMP usu­al­ly sends in ig­no­rant ju­nior white boys for four-year post­ings, then ro­tates them out as they be­gin to grow a clue or two.

After they left, I was shoot­ing the shit with two Hai­da tour-guide guys, and it was a lit­tle tense un­til we dis­cov­ered that we all most­ly hold the RCMP in con­temp­t. There’s the part where too many of their arestees die in cap­tiv­i­ty, the part where they sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ha­rass their fe­male em­ploy­ees, the part where the lead­er­ship was em­bez­zling the re­tire­ment fund­s, the part where they taser ig­no­rant con­fused im­mi­grants to death in Van­cou­ver air­port, and  —  particularly rel­e­vant in that con­text  —  the part where our in­dige­nous peo­ple have come to re­gard them, gen­er­al­ly, as the en­e­my.

Back to our va­ca­tion. One thing I want to high­light is the gen­er­al won­der­ful­ness of cruis­ing from is­land to is­land in a small boat, ev­ery mo­ment a feast for the eye­s; I’m talk­ing about the qual­i­ty of light, and the tex­tures of the trees and the stones and the wa­ter. Here are a few ran­dom snaps from in the boat.

Little water cave in Haida Gwaii

Pix­el 2, 1/750 sec at f/1.8, ISO 51

Water and cave in Haida Gwaii

Pix­el 2, 1/530 sec at f/1.8, ISO 51

Gwaii Haanas waterfront

Fu­ji X-T2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8, 55m­m, 1/680 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200;
pro­cessed with Sil­ver Efex

Gwaii Haanas seawater, very clear

Pix­el 2, 1/1900 sec at f/1.8, ISO 51

Trees at the edge of an island, Gwaii Haanas

Fu­ji X-T2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8, 55m­m, 1/200 sec at f/4.5, ISO 200

Marine life in Gwaii Haanas

Fu­ji X-T2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8, 67m­m, 1/200 sec at f/7.1, ISO 2500

It’s worth not­ing that those last two pic­tures are from the ex­act same spot, be­side a ran­dom tiny is­land, look­ing up at the trees then down at the urchins and anemones. It helps that a Zo­di­ac can float right up to the edge of a rocky is­land, that this is ba­si­cal­ly a fjord so there’s lots of wa­ter right up to the edge, and that our guide Mar­i­lyn was an awe­some boat pi­lot.

Windy Bay · It’s an­oth­er old Hai­da vil­lage site, but here’s the view com­ing in; there’s a new big house and totem pole.

Windy Bay on Lyell Island

Fu­ji X-T2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8, 67m­m, 1/210 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

This is on Lyell Is­land, Ath­lii Gwai­i, a spe­cial place. It’s beau­ti­ful, like many is­lands on Gwaii Haanas, but it was the site, start­ing in 1985, of a pitched bat­tle be­tween the Hai­da and some sup­port­ing greens on one side, and the log­ging in­dus­try, which was hell-bent on mon­e­tiz­ing ev­ery old-growth tree in the hemi­sphere. 72 cit­i­zens were ar­rest­ed but they won, and launched the pro­cess that led to the cre­ation of Gwaii Haanas. I’m in awe, full of grat­i­tude for those peo­ple and their work, and you should be too.

Here are a cou­ple of shots of the totem pole.

Totem pole at Windy Bay on Lyell Island

Pix­el 2, 1/3900 sec at f/1.8, ISO 55

Totem pole at Windy Bay at Lyell Island

Fu­ji X-T2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8, 78m­m, 1/750 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

The Hai­da Watch­man there at Windy bay was Hen­ry Tyler (ev­ery­one calls him “Tyler”) and when we went in­to the big house, he told us sto­ries of the Ath­lii Gwaii protest ac­tion (they sent in Hai­da RCMP of­fi­cers to ar­rest their own el­der­s, think­ing that would help) and then took out a drum and sang the Ath­lii Gwaii song which, he said, is be­com­ing the Hai­da na­tion­al an­them. It was a mo­ment of wrench­ing beau­ty. Thank you Tyler, and good luck to you and your peo­ple.

Time moves on, and the old totems that haven’t fall­en yet will, but as you can see, the world has new totems too. And then, this is hap­pen­ing.

Tree on fallen totem pole, Haida Gwaii

Pix­el 2, 1/1500 sec at f/1.8, ISO 50


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: John Cowan (Aug 04 2018, at 12:18)

Sounds like the RCMP has been taking lessons from the Federal Bureau of Ineptitude next door.


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August 04, 2018
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