The opening and blessing of the new Haida Gwaii Watchmen cabin on June 20th, 2016, at SGang Gwaay Llnagaay. This cabin was built to replace an older cabin that was built in the 1970’s by one of the first Watchmen; Captain Gold.
Click here to watch SGang Gwaay longhouse opening
The cabin is located in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. This protected site location is favoured by all Watchmen because it is one of the largest of all the abandoned villages located in Moresby Island. The historic village, which had at least 300 Haida, is now uninhabited with the exception of half the year by the Haida. These watchmen meet and greet all visitors to the site, and provide histories and information regarding this exceptional village.
There is a haunting presence from the ancestors spirits, and the feeling is more intense to those who are sensitive.
The site was occupied for at least 2,000 years by the Haida, and the numbers were varied during the hunting and gathering season. The winter season would have been utilized for building projects, ceremonies, and socialization with other villages. The numbers that occupied SGang Gwaay were significantly lowered by the smallpox infestation, and the survivors then moved to Skidegate to build a new home.
According to Elizabeth Bulbrook, Haida Heritage coordinator, human remains were found at Bay Street in Queen Charlotte. These remains were moved to the Mortuary longhouse at the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay. The discovery of the remains were found when workers were working on residential water lines in the Village of Queen Charlotte. Skidegate Haida Immersion Program elders determined that the remains were to be wrapped in a ceremonial button blanket robe, and put into a traditional bentwood box to be placed into the Mortuary house. In addition to the findings of human remains, an ancient fire pit and midden were discovered 8 metres above sea levels. The presence of shell layers indicate the hearth was utilized at higher sea levels for an undetermined number of years in the past.
Recommendations are to contact the Council of the Haida Nation, Haida Heritage and Forest Guardians at 250-626-6058 if you find artifacts of any kind. And to stop what you are working on immediately to preserve what is remaining.
This image was taken before the six totem poles were raised at the site, and before the Haida Heritage Centre construction began. The most recent image for the Mortuary house is on the home page.
Mark has been involved in various projects and in relation to Lootas, he assisted Haida artists, Billy Bellis, Garner Moody, and Guujaaw from Skidegate. The Haida traditional canoe project was conceived by Bill Reid, and he directed the carving, steaming open the canoe with hot rocks according to Haida histories.
The 50 foot Lootas was created for Expo 86, Vancouver, British Columbia. The canoe was crafted with assistants from Skidegate, in Haida Gwaii, trained with new skills as a project like this has not been attempted in many years.
At the closing of Expo in Vancouver, the Haida warriors paddled the Lootas back home to Skidegate. The journey took a week to complete, strictly on Haida power. They had escorts travelling with them to be sure of their safety and to take care of their well being.
Other such journeys of the Lootas, but on a much larger scale, was to go to Paris in 1989 to paddle the Seine. This was a major project as you can imagine to transport the 50 foot canoe overseas.
During the construction of the canoe, Mark provided assistance with steaming to shape the canoe, and helped with finishing the seats, gunnels, a process which took well over a month. Mark built a cradle to move the monumental canoe to Expo, and that cradle was lifted onto a truck for transport. The results of building a traditional canoe turned out quite well considering there was no real directions on how to proceed with the project. It turned out beautiful.
Carey Linde slides of the Lootas Paris trip
Image of Bill Reid being greeting by Chiefs and onlookers.
Image credit: CBC Radio Canada
Ellen Island is located across from Rose Harbour
Houston Stewart Channel separates Moresby Island from smaller Kunghit Island to the south. The channel is accessible to aircraft and boats. There are mooring buoys in Rose Harbour, as well as two within Louscoone Inlet. Rose Harbour has bed-and-breakfast facilities and offers a boat-tour service out to SGang Gwaay (Anthony Island). Parks Canada has a field warden station (intermittently staffed) on the eastern side of Ellen Island.
No access sites include Bowles Point on the eastern side of Kunghit Island, all of the rocks and islets surrounding SGang Gwaay, and Kerouard islands at the southern extremities of Kunghit Island. Camping is not permitted on SGang Gwaay. Water from a pipe can be found about halfway along the west side of Louscoone Inlet.
Cumshewa Inlet – Hlkinul Kaahlii
Cumshewa Inlet, a deep channel with Moresby Camp at its head, is the lunching point for boaters heading to the southern islands and passages. From here, Cumshewa Inlet can be explored by motor boat in one day. There is a small dock and a concrete boat ramp.
North of Louise Island, received its name from the white fur traders, whose custom was to name a region after the most important chief of the area. In the early years it has the usual variety of spellings all Haida words received. Fur traders made the inlet a regular port of call and many a rich harvest of pelts was taken aboard after a vigorous bargaining led by Eagle Crest Chief Go’mshewah. Like the Haidas of Skedans, the Cumshewa people did not engage to any extent in tribal wars with other Haidas. However, when Koyah from the Houston Stewart Channel engaged in his vendetta against the whites, he received some help from the Cumshewas.
To read more, go to The Queen Charlotte Islands, Book 2 of Places and Names.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (also known as Gwaii Haanas) encompasses 15 per cent of Haida Gwaii — a group of islands off the coast of British Columbia, and the ancestral territory of the Haida people. Gwaii Haanas includes over 138 of the approximately 150 islands that make up Haida Gwaii (which were temporarily known as the Queen Charlotte Islands). In the Haida language, Gwaii Haanas means “islands of beauty.”
Skedans – K’uuna Llnagaay
K’uuna Llnagaay (Skedans) is located on the northeast corner of Louise Island. Historically the village had approximately 30 longhouses. There were 50 frontal poles, mortuary poles, memorial poles, and mortuary figures.
There are still remnants of the village longhouses and poles which will give you an idea of the sizes.
Tanu – T’aanuu Llnagaay
T’aanuu Llnagaay (Tanu) is also known as Eelgrass Town, originally referring to the eelgrass beds in the area. Historically there were approximately 40 longhouses in the village. There were 30 mortuary poles, and 15 mortuary houses. There is very little left standing which is covered heavily with moss, and is decaying to the earth.
Windy Bay – Hlk’yah GaawGa
Hlk’yah GaawGa (Windy Bay) would be most notably known from the protests for logging at Lyell Island in the mid 1980’s. This protest led to the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. This site has stunning trails along Windy Bay Creek, and you can also see the giant Sitka spruce, which is approximately 900 years old.
Hotsprings Islands – Gandll K’in Gwaay.aay
Gandll K’in Gwaay.aay (Hotspring Island) is famous for the hot springs sprinkled along the shores of the island near the Watchmen’s cabin. The springs temperatures range from 32 to 77 Celsius. This water is fresh water with a mineral content and a distinct salty taste. Due to the 2012 earthquake, the large hot spring pool is not very hot, and the Haida pray for it’s return to its former glory.
Historically Gandll K’in Gwaay.aay provided an abundance of food, and the hot springs provided healing for the body, and the tranquility would nurture the soul. The warmth and heat provides a unique looking vegetation along the shore and the rocky areas of the island. You can see heavy patches of salal and some crab apple in the rocky areas as well.
Anthony Island – SGang Gwaay
SGang Gwaay (Anthony Island) is the southern most southwest coast village in Haida Gwaii. The name SGang.gil.ngang Gwaay (Wailing Island) comes from the sound the tide creates when air is forced through a hole in the rock at SGang Gwaay.
The main island has unusual rock formations which is made of volcanic material, and makes the surfaces interesting. This area is littered with sea lions and seals, and numerous sea birds which can be viewed from a boat.
From the Kii.ngaay Publication Article – 2015 A year in review
Committed to improving Watchmen living conditions: the new cabin at SGang Gwaay, wood sheds at all Watchmen sites and a new helicopter pad to accommodate the BC Air Ambulance at SGang Gwaay all built thanks to the Archipelago Management Board.
New Watchmen Cabin for SGang Gwaay
Watchmen and visitors to SGang Gwaay have a lot to celebrate this year; namely, the completion of a beautiful new Watchmen cabin nestled into the shoreline. Completed as of early November, the cabin will be unveiled in the spring of 2016.
The new cabin was built by Highlander Marine Services, a local Haida-owned contractor who won the competitive bidding process last year. Their crew started demolition of the old cabin in November 2014. By early May 2015 Highlander completed archaeological checks and started construction. The new cabin is larger and wider than the previous one, but was built on top of the original footprint to minimize environmental impact. It was designed to accommodate up to three watchmen at one of the busiest sites in all of Gwaii Haanas and represents a significant upgrade from the tents the volunteer Watchmen stayed in during the early 1980’s.
The project generated employment for up to nine locals. Building a cabin in such a remote setting as SGang Gwaay presented many unique challenges. Supplies were sent in by barge or plane and workers had to live away from home for months at a time. A big Haaw’a to Taan Forest for providing four monumental cedars to form the corner posts that will hold this beautiful and functional building for decades to come and to Highlander Marine Services for a job well done.
Mark Yaroshuk – Longhouse Contracting hired to build the cabin at Watchmen site
Mark Yaroshuk was instrumental in the construction of the cabin at SGang Gwaay. He worked hard to bring this project to completion, from it’s conception. The time Mark spent on this project was well over a year, and the time he spent shows in the finished product. With his experience and history, he was the best pick to undertake this project to build a longhouse style living structure as a Watchmen Cabin. Highlander Marine Services provided transportation of supplies to the site and took care of the logistics, and Mark was the builder of the longhouse, along with his helpers. – Unanimous
Watchmen Cabin at SGang Gwaay
Mark Yaroshuk was instrumental in the construction of the cabin in the park. He worked hard to bring this project to completion, from it’s conception. With his experience and history, he was the best pick to undertake this project to build a longhouse style living structure as a Watchmen Cabin.
In the spring and summer of 2015 this longhouse cabin was in full construction mode during the tourist season. All of the materials had to be brought into the site from the northern part of the island. This remote location does have it challenges, most notably having everything you need once you start building, otherwise there has to be some modification to make what you have work for you.
Click here to read the article from the lii.ngaay publication
This article is reminiscent of the original project at SGang Gwaay
Cabin under construction