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Go Haida Gwaii


Rose Spit - where the Hecate Strait meets Dixon Entrance - Photo: Owen Perry

The rainforest experience - moss carpeted paths, a lingering scent of fresh cedar and the sounds of silence - Photo: Owen Perry

Step into another world as you tour ancient Haida village sites in Gwaii Haanas - Photo: Owen Perry


Visiting SGang Gwaay (Ninstints) in Gwaii Haanas

By Katie Allen

Photo: Katie Allen

When I found myself on the edge of the world overlooking the vast, open ocean with an ancient culture behind me, I felt an all-encompassing energy in the air that felt so welcoming and warm it is nearly impossible to describe it all in words. To have visited SGang Gwaay is a privilege and a blessing that I feel honoured to have experienced. The natural beauty of the landscape embedded in cultural artifacts is especially significant to me after studying the Haida culture and its connection to Earth with the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society. It is out in the wilderness of Haida Gwaii that I feel the greatest sense of culture and SGang Gwaay is no exception.

Photo: Brodie Guy

Getting to SGang Gwaay was not an easy task. We were lucky to catch a ride in February on the Highlander with a watchman and fellow employee. The Watchmen are a group of individuals that travel south to Gwaii Haanas to stay in the longhouses at important village sites in order to look after the park, and make sure everything stays in order.

Photo: Flavien Mabit

If you’re lucky they’ll tell you stories of the land and old Haida villages. With a group of 10 students in February we were able to hear a lot about SGang Gwaay, and even before we heard any stories, you could just feel the energy of the land and people in the air.

Photo: Brodie Guy

What is interesting about Haida language is that there is no word for either art or nature for they are both seen as one with Earth and the people. After a totem pole has been raised, they are left there to decompose and return back to the natural world. These totem poles captured in SGang Gwaay are representative of this natural process, where most of the poles are decaying and barely left standing after a couple hundred years.

Photo: Katie Allen

All poles face the ocean so if a group approaches on the water, they are able to see the symbols to understand who lives there and what they are like. It is an incredible place to see ocean, land, and culture all intertwined as one. The earth is so lush and green with overpowering, giant old growth forest surrounding you. You have to be there to feel and see it to truly understand its power!

Photo: Barb Rowsell

At most of the major village sites there are up to date longhouses – some even equipped with kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms! All have bunk beds, table and chairs, and a wood stove to make for a very comfortable night’s stay. It took about 4 hours to travel down from Queen Charlotte to SGang Gwaay and after a few hours of roaming around the weather warned us to get to a campsite immediately. Another 2 hours of boating took us up to Windy Bay on Lyell Island, right next to the Legacy Pole! It was such an honour to be there. The longhouse was so comfortable and warm and I even had a dry mattress to sleep on.

Photo: Katie Allen

The next morning the waves were as high as 3 meters and we were bracing ourselves for another week at Windy Bay when we decided to catch a quick break in the weather and head out. It was an extremely rough ride on this industrial boat, but that made it all the more fun! I may have been soaking wet in salt water but it was worth the rollercoaster ride.

Photo: Katie Allen

Gwaii Haanas is a magical place and I cannot wait to head back again later this month. If the opportunity ever arises to take a trip down there, GO! There is no place on Earth that feels so ancient and sacred and looks so incredibly beautiful.


Contact Us

Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre

email: | telephone: 250-559-8316

Sandspit Visitor Centre

email: | telephone: 250.637.5362

Port Clements Visitor Centre

email: | telephone: 250-557-4576

Masset Visitor Centre

email: | telephone: 250-626-3982

Haida Gwaii Tourism

Destination Marketing Organization

Super Natural British Columbia