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Haida Totem Poles

Listed under Visitor Attractions in Canada.

  • Photo of Haida Totem Poles
  • Photo of Haida Totem Poles
  • Photo of Haida Totem Poles
  • Photo of Haida Totem Poles
Photo of Haida Totem Poles
Photo by flickr user anne lazarevitch
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The Haida people have thrived on the islands known as “Haida Gwaii” or ‘the islands of the people’ for thousands of years. With a firm respect and understanding of the environment, the Haida people were able to build a complex society and a distinct architecture and artistic heritage. Renowned for their marine mastery, they built beautiful canoes to harvest the rich marine resources and to trade with others communities living on the British Columbian coast.

Contact with the Europeans brought the Haida material wealth and the rapid evolution of cultural activities such as totem pole carving and pot-latching. However, smallpox and measles had a devastating effect on the Haida, reducing their numbers from an estimated 7000 in 1835 to about 700 by 1885. Most villages were abandoned and today the Haida people can be found in two villages, Skidegate and Old Massett.

Sgaang Gwaii is undoubtedly the most spectacular of the villages that we now have a chance to visit. A UNESCO world heritage site, numerous totem poles still stand today, evoking a strong sense of the past spirits and also as a testament to the skill of Haida craftsmen. It is also very evident here how finely adapted the people were to their environment and a trip to the totem poles will leave you with a feeling that we have lost something very special.

Written by  John Johnston.

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