Our project, Canada is Great, has been going great. I guesstimate that we have over one hundred hours of footage, ALREADY, and will be accumulating a lot more in the next few months!
We are in the southwest, currently in Vancouver and soon off to Vancouver Island, after a wonderful time spent in Haida Gwaii.
Some great things that have happened in the last week and a bit:
-we were lucky enough to be in Haida Gwaii during a potlatch event, which is a traditional Haida celebration involving lots of dancing, music, food, gifts, and speeches from important people
-we witnessed David Suzuki receiving a new Haida name, as he has already been adopted into a local Haida clan in the past
-we met a super cool filmmaker and multimedia professional from Haida Gwaii, who runs the company Innonative.
-we talked about our project on the CBC Daybreak North radio show
-we talked to a carpenter who built a guesthouse almost entirely from wood that washed ashore the island, and it was amazing
-we admired the hard work and detail put into building a stackwall house, by an over-70-year-old woman, who has been continuously building her house for 40 years
On another note, the recent history of Haida Gwaii is grim, but worth learning nonetheless.
Haida people have been living on the islands for over 10 000 year. Haida Gwaii consists of 150 islands, with two main islands, and it is rich in resources. The first European contact was in 1774, and the years following can be told as no fairy tale. The Europeans found value in sea otter pelts, and soon the otters became extinct in the waters around the islands. Diseases such as tuberculosis and smallpox were introduced, bringing Haida populations down tremendously (this happened in the late 19th century). The Haida experienced forced assimilation and were not permitted to speak their native language or practice their culture in any way. Logging became a main industry on the island, and huge areas of old growth forest were completely cut down. The islands and their people were being treated with no respect for hundreds of years. Luckily, from what I saw and understood during our visit, things are getting better for the Haida, and are expected to continue that way!
.Our trip in Haida Gwaii went as followed:
Arrive in Skidegate from the ferry
Head north to Old Masset and Masset
Slowly head back south, stopping in Port Clements, Tlell, Skidegate, and eventually Queen Charlotte
For those of you reading this who have never heard of Haida Gwaii, you may have heard of the islands by their previous name, the Queen Charlotte Islands. The islands were initially named by white people in 1787. This was by Captain George Dixon, who named them after his ship, the Queen Charlotte. In 2010, the islands were officially renamed Haida Gwaii, which means "islands of the people".
When we first arrived in Masset and Old Masset (located at the North of Graham Island in Haida Gwaii), we explored the town, driving down every street and learning about the history of the place. Old Masset is one of the Haida villages that remained after the smallpox epidemic in the 19th century. Masset, 2 km away, became a major military location during WWII, and only in the mid 90s did the military downsize to a remote control operation. It went from having hundreds of employees to just a handful at this time. This website has a great history of the military in Masset.
The next stop was Port Clements: a small village located on the Masset Inlet which was previously visited by tourists for two main things: the Golden Spruce and the white raven. In 1997, the spruce was illegally felled by a man named Grant Hadwin, and the white raven was electrocuted on a power line in front of the Golden Spruce Hotel.
I'd reccommend reading the book "The Golden Spruce", written by John Vaillant about the life and demise of the famous golden spruce. Hadwin felled the hundreds of years old tree in protest of the forestry industry, and it was not taken well. Some wonderful girls that we met on the island brought us to see the acclaimed spruce tree, which was felled over a decade ago, and now sat horizontally on the forest floor.
Down in Skidegate, in the south of Graham Island, the Duke and Duchess arrived for a short visit a few days before we got to Haida Gwaii. During their trip in a traditional Haida canoe, a silent protest was happening. In protest of the Pacific NorthWest LNG (liquified natural gas) terminal that was just recently approved by the federal government, residents of Haida Gwaii wore their blue NO LNG shirts and held NO LNG signs. Here is a good site further explaining the issues surrounding LNG.
In Queen Charlotte, known locally as Charlotte or Charlotte City, we were walking down the main road and saw a beautiful stackwall fence in front of a house, so we went to speak with the owner. He invited us into his backyard, and we shot the s$!t for a while, as he prepared some salmon for canning.
Fishing and hunting is very important in Haida Gwaii. Many people rely primarily on a stocked freezer of fish and deer, and food from their gardens. Since food comes over weekly from the mainland, the milk and eggs and bread are often gone a few days after it arrives on Monday. It's important to be stocked up in winter, because sometimes the ferry will be cancelled for weeks at a time due to bad conditions in the Hecate straight (the area of ocean between mainland BC and Haida Gwaii).
And I will end this with a video of people on Haida Gwaii having a ball and singing to Taylor Swift.
Peace and love,