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Haida Gwaii, On the Edge of the World

By May 21, 2020No Comments

So, I said to myself, ‘time to get back on the horse and write!’ after leaving this blog adrift while I recover from the marathon expense of Stag Rider. In that void, where I stood in a dazed, enthused state, watching my second book sail out to sea after years of creating something from travels which were physical and spiritual in nature, I heard the voices in my head gather again, plotting to prepare me for a third voyage into the writing abyss. I’m used to the voices. In addiction they weren’t as positive as they are today. They were loud, obtuse, persuasive.

Windy Bay, Haida Gwaii

Now, the voices speak of guidance and reassurance, of strength and hope, and of courage to continue the road to, quite where, I don’t know, but my belief is fuelled by something unseen and powerful. Sure, some of the voices are mine, but others come from elsewhere and I’ve been enjoying fine-tuning my antennae to pick up frequencies on Mother Nature’s wavelength. Something that has been easier to do during the stillness of lockdown.

As we gather ourselves for recovery on a more global scale, I’m finding solace in the stillness as we take stock, resetting ourselves, and also in these words which help me find my way through the feelings and emotions floating on the reviving Spring air. I have been meaning to put digital pen to paper since returning from the most north westerly isles of Cananda, Haida Gwaii.

I first learnt of this most beautiful, virtually unspoilt archipelago of four-hundred islands, through their artists. The indigenous slate stone – argillite, led me to Haida Gwaii. I encountered it through my searches for a black earthy pendant to symbolise my connection with Crow, whom some of you may know of through my books. Haida Gwaii has touched my soul on a deep, deep level. Since returning, music isn’t payed in my car anymore, as I continue to revel in the present moment. A quality learnt by default during the eight-day kayak expedition into Gwaii Haanas National Park, which is diarised in these photos.

Haida Heritage Museum

Controlled logging still takes place, but Haida Gwaii’s old growth cedars would be significantly depleted if it hadn’t been for the 1985 Windy Bay protest in which five islanders stood against large scale loggers on sacred land. They changed the course of Haida history, prompting the development of legislation that resulted in Haida Gwaii being co-governed by the Haida Nation and the Canadian Government.

Hot Springs Island

Like those beautiful giant old growth trees, the Haida people have recovered from a different onslaught, that of disease introduced intentionally as a culling measure by colonisation which wiped all but three-hundred and fifty of the thirty-thousand or so Haida population. I was quietly embarrassed by my ignorance. Not knowing the horrific details of cultural genocide until I began visiting sacred village sites where proud mortuary and house poles still stood on land which slowly reclaimed them, land which holds hallowed graves of the ancestors who knew first-hand of the crimes committed during first European contact in the 1800’s.

Tanu Village Site

I had intended on finding a shaman to speak to about the supernatural aspects of Haida culture, but as my trip progressed, I realised Haida culture is all about that connection between the natural world and the supernatural.

Two hour zodiac ride to the kayaks

Their reverence for nature and the complex clan structure of their matriarchal society drew me in. The totem poles depict supernatural beings, many known to take human form and live among the people. The poles themselves are brought to life with song and dance, as the great red cedar, moved from its home in the forest, begins its new life as part of a village.

The Haida creation story centres around one supernatural being, Raven. The skies of these magical isles are ruled by the trickster and the eagle, and the two main clans of the Haida people adopt the same super-natural names. I left Haida Gwaii humbled by the richness and devotion to a culture which has graced the isles for the best part of fourteen thousand years, and with a yearning to return one day to explore the southernmost routes where the poles of Ninstints’ Village still reach for the sky from the land at the edge of world.

Legacy Pole

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