Ancient Haida Canoe Tour
By Katie Allen
Aside from guiding kayak tours and providing cheap accommodation in Port Clements (Budgies Backpackers & Sight Seers Hostel), Alan Lore (Kayak Haida Gwaii) makes for an awesome tour guide and can answer any question about Haida Gwaii.
This past Saturday was so sunny and beautiful it was hard not to get outside and take advantage of it. For our tour, Alan took us down some tight dirt roads that were not entirely known to the public other than a few locals, and after bushwhacking in a 4x4 truck for 5 minutes we made it to an opening in the forest. He pointed me to a small path, and the air was so crisp and silent in the forest that when I walked further in to see an old Haida canoe, I felt an energy in the air that was almost tangible.
In the middle of this forest lay an unfinished Haida canoe from the second smallpox epidemic in the late 1800s. Alan told us that when a family member died in a Haida clan, they would abandon the canoe that they were working on and start over again in a new location. This particular one hadn’t been worked on for very long and the shape of the canoe was only starting to take place.
Next to the canoe was a massive tree stump where you could see, based on the colour and rivets in the wood, where the Haida started using iron tools. Prior to this they were burning the sides of the tree so it was weak enough to saw through using rocks and razor clamshells.
Photo: Katie Allen
Only the best quality cedar trees were used to build these canoes and to test whether the tree was good enough, they would carve a hole to check the centre of the tree for rotting. This one photographed below was not used because of the rotting at the core.
Photo: Katie Allen
There are two sites of canoes that are luckily still intact despite the logging that has occurred in the area. Haida art is what keeps this culture alive, and its such a blessing to be able to experience it all first hand!
"People are like trees, and groups of people are like the forests.
While the forests are composed of many different kinds of trees,
these trees intertwine their roots so strongly that it is impossible for
the strongest winds which blow on our islands to uproot the forest,
for each tree strengthens its neighbour, and their roots are inextricably intertwined.
In the same way the people of our Islands, composed of members of nations and races from all over the world, are beginning to intertwine their roots so strongly that no troubles will affect them.
Just as one tree standing alone would soon be destroyed by the first strong wind which came along, so it is impossible for any person, any family, or any community to stand alone against the troubles of this world".
Chief Skidegate - Lewis Collinson