Long ago, when the small pox was introduced by European settlers on Haida Gwaii, the Haida population decreased by almost 80 percent. The remaining Haida people moved from the southern region of the islands, up north on Graham Island, to the villages that are known today as Masset and Skidegate.
I went with a friend up to Skidegate for the day. It's about a ten
minute drive from Queen Charlotte City. We thought we'd spend the day
venturing around leisurely and checking out different places!
First off, we stopped at the Haida Heritage Centre & Museum. We spent 4 hours there, walking through the museum and joining in on some tours. The first tour that we went on was the totem pole tour. When the museum was built, totem poles representing the villages of Haida Gwaii were erected, and on the tour, the guide explained the history behind each one, and how to distinguish different designs on each pole! It was very informative; for example, an animal, such as a mouse with a long tongue, indicates communication! The second tour that we went on was about the canoes that are in the canoe/carving shed at the centre. We learned lots about the traditional and more moden ways that the Haida carved canoes! Between the tours we had lunch at Kaay's Kitchen in the centre...I had a nice big bowl of clam chowder!
After the museum, we hopped into the car and drove around the village. In front of the SHIP (Skidegate Haida Immersion Program) building, Bill Reid's pole stands. When it was raised in 1978, it was the first to be raised in Skidegate in over 100 years. The building itself is in the longhouse style, and the pole is on the front. It's quite a beautiful building!
We drove on Front Street, up to the main highway, and took a right. On our left hand side we saw All About U Arts, a gallery owned by Ben Davidson. It was open at the time, and so we went in and saw all of his beautiful carvings. If you're looking to see traditional art, it's a great place to check out.
We continued further down the highway, about 10 minutes out of Skidegate, where we stopped at a pull off on the right hand side of the road. There is a very special boulder on the beach there...yes a boulder! It's known as Balance Rock, and it was deposited on the beach just outside of Skidegate by a glacier. It is believed that it moved it from Alliford Bay, 16 miles away, and many people tell a story about it. There are some Haida legends about it, but the story I heard growing up was that a man attempted to move the rock, with horses, pries, and more, and even contemplated blowing it up with dynamite (but was persuaded not to). We went to balance rock, climbed on top of it (like many do) and beachcombed for a little while!
Before we headed home, we stopped at Jags Beanstalk. It's a little coffee shop/restaurant in Skidegate, that makes great lattes. We grabbed two to-go, and left Skidegate feeling satisfied.