Old Massett, Haida Gwaii

Sep 06, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird


Today marked the last of our three fantastic days on the beautiful island of Haida Gwaii. We were woken up a bit earlier than usual in order to make our way two hours north by bus from Queen Charlotte City to Old Massett, a Haida community on the northern coast of Graham Island. There, we had the opportunity to visit with two distinguished carvers: Christian White (who is also one of the village chiefs) and Jim Hart.

White spoke to us at length about Haida history and how, despite years of turbulence and disrespect, their culture still thrives. He told stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, and he invited us into his carving shed where his latest totem pole was in the last stages of being finished.

We visited Hart in his home that doubles as an art studio. Carvings large and small, in various stages of completion, were displayed around the house and wood shavings dusted the floor. Two carvers, Hart’s son and another man, sat busily carving small wooden salmon that will eventually be strung together to form a big rattle. Like White, Hart also regaled us with stories of Haida history as well as details about his art, which has been showcased around the world.

After visiting with the two Haida artists, we returned to White’s longhouse for a spread of traditional foods prepared specially for us by members of the community. There were several iterations of salmon, fry bread with salal berry sauce, salad with herring roe, pickled sea asparagus, dried seaweed, and much more. After we had eaten our fill, we were treated to a series of traditional dances and songs by both elders and younger generations alike.

It was an honor to visit this community, learn about their culture, and have them welcome us into their homes and longhouses. Thank you!

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About the Author

Becky Timbers

Wellness Specialist

Becky Timbers was born and raised in Vermont, where she spent her childhood exploring the outdoors and enjoying country life. She is fortunate to have parents who love to travel, so at an early age, she was bitten by the travel bug and subsequently spent five months in New Zealand and a year in Kenya through study abroad programs.

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