Monday, 30 January 2012

Haida Gwaii Museums

Photo Credit: Haida Heritage Centre
Haida Gwaii Museum
Kaay Llnagaay ("Sea Lion Town") Second Beach Road, Skidegate

Ph: (250) 559-4643

The Haida Gwaii Museum is a non-profit organization with a 20 member board of directors representing all Haida Gwaii communities. The museum originally opened to the public in 1976 at Second Beach, Skidegate. In 2008, the newly renovated 17,000 sq ft expanded museum was opened, as part of the new 53,000 sq ft Haida Heritage Centre. The Haida Gwaii Museum primarily focuses on Haida history and contemporary culture in the form of art, objects, knowledge and documentation.

The museum's permanent 'Exhibit Houses' include Greenhouse Atrium, Eating House, Saving Things House, Contact and Conflict, Keeping our Way of Life, Forest, Connections and Cycles/Natural History.

In addition, The museum organizes an annual visual arts program of workshops and temporary artist exhibits; educational programs in conjunction with School District #50; and a series of public programs aimed at Haida Gwaii visitors during the visitor season (May to September).

Four to six temporary exhibitions representing the work of contemporary artists from Haida Gwaii as well as artists from BC, Canada and international destinations are organized each year.

Open daily in the summer with reduced hours during the winter. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students, $5 for children 6-12, and free for children under 6.

Port Clements Settlers Museum
45 Bayview Ave, Port Clements
Ph: (250) 557-4576 or (250) 557-4403

Photo Credit: Port Clements Settlers Museum
Photo Credit: Port Clements Settlers Museum

The Settlers Museum in Port Clements is operated by the Port Clements Historical Society. The museum was built in 1985 to display items having historical value from early pioneers on Haida Gwaii. The focus of the Settlers Museum is upon the history of the European settlement and the forest industry on Haida Gwaii.

Photo Credit: Ian Gould

Displays include pioneer artifacts and historical photographs of logging camps, the flourishing forest industry and early 1900s life in Queenstown/Port Clements. An impressive outdoor exhibit of logging equipment invites the viewer to appreciate the work of early Haida Gwaii loggers.

The Golden Spruce and the ‘White Raven’ were popular attractions in Port Clements until 1997 at which time the Golden Spruce was illegally felled and the ‘White Raven’ met its demise when it made contact with an electrical transformer. The museum features both of these attractions in articles and photographs.

Open daily during the summer from 11am-4pm and on weekends during the winter. Admission is $2.

Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum
2182 Collinson Ave
Masset, V0T 1M0
Ph: (250) 626-6066

The Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum is appropriately located in an historical building – that being the original Masset hospital, built in 1914. The building has also served as a school house, a teacherage and an alternative school.

The Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum was organized with leadership from David Phillips and a group of dedicated volunteers. The museum opened to the public in 2001 and continues to operate as a non-profit organization.

The focus of the museum is upon Greater Massett’s maritime and settlement history. The museum features exhibits of Masset and Old Massett’s fishing fleets and shipbuilders as well as the numerous clam and crab canneries (Tow Hill, Naden Harbour, Old Masset, Lock Port and Queen Charlotte).

The museum captures the history of the thriving north end communities in a time of abundance and hardship.

The museum displays include photographs and documentation from the turn of the century featuring medical pioneers on Haida Gwaii, Union Steamships as the mode of transportation to Haida Gwaii, pioneer life and military history.

The museum also features local art exhibits throughout the year.

Open daily June - September (1-5pm) and weekends in April– June (2-4pm) . Admission is $2.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Music Festival on Haida Gwaii 1975 - Present

By Janet Rigg 
In 1975, local musicians such as Percy Williams and Ron Souza, performed on the back of a pickup truck in Queen Charlotte City for anyone who would listen.

This was good. So they took it on the road, or should I say "boat" and one of the islands in Bear Skin Bay became the site for a joyous musical event. Again, this was good. So they did it again. Bob Bullechuk
The Community Club in Queen Charlotte became home to the first official Music Festival in 1978. The line up featured a wide range of local talent and relied on many volunteers to make it happen. Hazel McQuarrie was one such music lover who supported the festival and inspired musicians and fans to come. It was such a success that it became an annual event, until 1986 when many local musicians went to Vancouver for Expo 86 to perform. This caused a break, and there was no music festival until it was revived in 1995.

In 1995 the QCI Arts Council (now the Haida Gwaii Arts Council) sponsored the Juggernaut Jam Music Festival. Not only did this give local musicians a chance to perform to a large audience again, but organizers also began to bring in musicians from Canada and other parts of the world. This exposure to off-island talent, and the opportunity for local musicians to share ideas and be inspired by professional musicians, was a huge success. The Juggernaut Jam Music Festival continued in Charlotte until 1999, when it became known as the Edge of The World Music Festival, and moved to a large ocean-side field in a rural area of Tlell. Situated in the middle of the island, it made the festival more accessible to the island’s population.

The Edge of the World Music Festival became a not-for-profit society in 2000. Still volunteer run, it began to grow.

The festival [became] a highlight of the year for local islanders and continue[d] to entice more and more people to these remote islands. What’s the big draw?: A good small festival community feeling in a magical setting; World class musicians sharing our stage with promising emerging artists from the islands and around the world; Anyone who comes to these mystical islands leaves feeling refreshed and inspired.
Frank Wall

This singular musical event, in a field in Tlell, brought in such acts as: Spirit of the West, John Spearn, Los Gringos Salvajes, Pepi Danza, Sandy Scofield, Random Order, Mamaguroove, and Gary Comeau and the Voodoo Allstars.

The event was guided by the likes of Pat Carrie Smith, Skye Cantin, Bob Bullechuk, Debbie Pearson, Elizabeth Inkster, and Keith Alexander, among others such as Sabrina Frazier, Frank Wall, Toby Sanmiya, Sandra Beggs, Jeannie Kalamarz, Roly Thompson, and George and Donnette Farrel.

It was always a great success, however the weather was often an uninvited guest. After the large horseshoe tent over the stage nearly blew away in 2006, causing the Friday night show to be cancelled, the Festival was moved to a nicer weekend in August and the shelter of the Tlell Fall Fairgrounds.

2007 also saw the beginning of the Annual Lantern Parade. The only annual lantern parade in Northern BC, it was the creative vision of Joanne Hayward and Germain Vigneault. During the evening performances, locals who had made paper lanterns during the lantern workshops would parade through the dancing crowd. A magical moment, the parade continues to grow every year as more and more amazingly unique lanterns are made. Sadly 2011 saw the passing of Joanne Hayward from cancer, but the lantern parade goes on, carrying her light and her vision.

From 2007 to 2009, the blue and white striped horseshoe tent was still a fixture at the Edge of the World Music Festival, but it began to show its age, and the plywood stage that it sheltered began to show the strain of the weight of so many musicians having played on it. In 2010, Festival organizers decided to bring in a state of the art mobile stage unit. This unit allowed for better sound, better visibility, and better lighting. It also made for a more professional show, with many guest musicians suitably impressed by this set up.

Roeland Denooij has been the Artistic Director for the Festival since 2009. With a music degree from McGill University, Roeland’s ear has been able to pick out extremely high quality acts from the hundreds of submissions received every year.

Highlights include; The Shuffle Demons, Shane Philip, Dominque Fraissard, The Kerplunks, Wayne Lavallee, The Odds, and Kinnie Starr. However, he has never lost sight of the fact that the festival is also a time for local musicians to shine. Roeland tries his hardest to find time for every local musician to perform who applies.

 Also highlighted are the incredible Haida Dancers of Masset and Skidegate, who traditionally open and close each festival.

Each year the festival improves – with more cohesive ambiance, more food and merchandise vendors showcasing local wares and cuisine, more diverse workshops, and more fringe acts. There is now a new organizing committee in place, with a great selection of 30-somethings lending their creative talents to get this festival done.

Additionally a large number of local and off-island volunteers pitch in on the festival weekend, not to mention the local businesses that sponsor and support the festival.

 All of this effort comes together to make the Edge of the World Music Festival on Haida Gwaii unlike any other. You may even catch Percy Williams and Ron Souza, who still command attention on the stage.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Hiking the Cape Fife Trail

The Cape Fife Trail (10km one way), located in Naikoon Provincial Park, at the north end of Graham Island, is an old settler's road. Look carefully and you may see remains of a few cabins.

Photo credit: British Columbia Travel Guide

What a fantastic weekend! Cool, clear weather and a hike on the Cape Fife Trail to the east coast of the Islands.

 Photo credit: British Columbia Travel Guide

BC Parks and the Council of the Haida Nation built a new cabin at the end of this trail a few years ago, providing an excellent shelter with a woodstove, table and bunkbeds for those wanting to spend a night or two beside Hecate Strait.

The trail was long (10 km) but with the cool temperatures any muddy ground was kept solid and we made good time getting to the cabin in just over two hours. The trail is level all the way mostly following the old settlers road that supplied the many homesteads in the area in the early 1900’s. Some remnants of old cabins and the major projects the settlers undertook to drain the land are still visible along the trail and the endless rows of driftwood stretching down the beach from the cabin were amazing.
Photo credit: British Columbia Travel Guide

We spent most of our time beachcombing, which unveiled many treasures but no glass balls that had drifted across from Japan. Maybe next time. I can’t wait to get back!

Photo Credits: Ryan Conroy, Club

How to find the Cape Fife Trail:

Drive toward North Beach along Hwy 16 (northeast of Masset) entering the
Naikoon Provincial Park. The paved road soon turns to gravel and becomes Tow Hill Road. Continue driving past Agate Beach
Campground until you reach the Tow Hill Parking Lot at the Hiellen River bridge. Cross the bridge and on the right is the Cape Fife trailhead sign.

Note: The Cape Fife Trail can be extended to a 2-3 day hike from the Cape Fife trail north to East Beach, Rose Spit and then North Beach back to the trail head. For the seasoned hiker it can take the form of a 5-7 day hike from Tlell up East Beach to the Cape Fife Trail or around Rose Spit and end at the trail head by Tow Hill.

Photo map credit: British Columbia Travel Guide

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Gwaii Haanas Experience

In 2005, National Geographic Traveller magazine voted Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve as the best national park in North America. The ‘new’ Gwaii Haanas Marine Protected Area and Haida Heritage Site, established in 2010, makes this the first area in the world to be protected from mountain top to sea floor. The ‘land’ portion of Gwaii Haanas covers the southern portion of Moresby Island while the marine portion extends 10 kilometres offshore from the coastline. Gwaii Haanas is only accessible by boat or floatplane.

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve was established as a result of the well-publicized logging protest on Lyell Island in 1985. The Gwaii Haanas Agrement, signed in 1993, is an agreement between the Canadian government and the Haida Nation to cooperatively manage the area.

Visitors are drawn to Gwaii Haanas for the wilderness experience, Haida cultural sites, wildlife, the natural hot springs among other attractions. Charters or kayak rentals can be easily made
( or There are a number of licensed Gwaii Haanas tour operators offering trips from one day to several weeks in length.

Please see for more information. In addition, the Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre registers and provides an orientation for all travellers to Gwaii Haanas (

This map can also be found at

Day trips in Gwaii Haanas often include visiting Skedans, Tanu or Windy Bay village sites or Hot Springs Island. Haida Watchman cabins are located at the various village sites and the ‘watchmen’ are available throughout the primary visitor season, to provide information about the area and ensure the protection of the site.

Skedans village is located on Louise Island on a peninsula at the head of Cumshewa Inlet. In the 1800s, this village site was home to approximately 450 Haida living in an estimated 26 longhouses. Approximately 56 monumental cedar sculptures were recorded as found at the village site. Unfortunately, due to decay, the poles and long house structures are barely visible today. Despite this, a visit to this site is a powerful experience.

Hot Springs Island is one of the most popular places to visit in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. The island features 3 natural hot spring pools located in a pristine wilderness setting overlooking Juan Perez Sound. A walk along a pathway parallel with the beach gradually rises allowing a choice of hot pools from oceanside to a view from the ‘mountain' top.

Tanu village is located on Tanu Island on Laskeek Bay. In the 19th Century, approximately 550 people resided in an estimated 25 longhouses in this village. Records document approximately 31 mortuary poles and 15 mortuary existed on this site. The remains of these structures now lie almost hidden in moss and grass.

Windy Bay on the eastern coast of Lyell Island, was a large village site in the 19th Century and a camp throughout the 1985 blockade to protect Lyell Island from logging. A ‘longhouse’ styled cabin named "Looking Around and Blinking House" stands as a reminder of the Haida victory at Lyle Island.

One of the best known Haida sites in Gwaii Haanas is the UNESCO World Heritage Site at SGang Gwaay (also known as Ninstints). SGang Gwaay village located on Anthony Island is known for the 32 totem and mortuary poles standing alongside the cedar longhouse. Many of these structures remain in good condition. While standing in the midst of carpets of moss and decaying monuments from another century, one is left with an overwhelming sense of awe.

A trip to SGang Gwaay will require a multi-day trip if done by boat. Float plane access is an option, for shorter visits, and accommodation and meals are available at one of the 3 accommodation providers in Rose Harbour (advance bookings are required). See or for more information on charters and contacts.

Visiting Gwaii Haanas is an adventure – an experience you will never forget. There are many options for visiting Gwaii Haanas – plan ahead and leave some extra days to visit the many sites and attractions in Graham and Moresby Island communities.

There is so much to experience on Haida Gwaii – you could spend weeks here and wish you had more time!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Bicycle Touring on Haida Gwaii

It seems a bit odd to be writing about biking in December, however, we are generally able to ride bikes year round albeit a bit wet in the winter months - nothing that a good set of fenders won't take care of.

Bikes are becoming increasingly popular on Haida Gwaii for commuters and for recreational use. Most of the roads on Haida Gwaii are relatively 'flat' and traffic-free, yielding great cycling opportunities. There are also numerous opportunities for mountain biking on the islands' many unpaved logging roads.

Visitors often transport bikes on BC Ferries from Prince Rupert ($5-subject to change). Bikes can also be boxed and brought on the plane or rented on island. See for more information.

There are approximately 150 kms of paved road on the islands. Highway 16 from the Village of Queen Charlotte to the Haida village of Old Massett is primarily flat, is a two lane highway and has very little traffic. Tow Hill Road from Masset to Tow Hill (15km) is a paved and gravel secondary road through Naikoon Provincial Park with beautiful forest and ocean views.

A local cycling club, Derailleurs in the Mist hosts an annual 'Race at the Edge' in early August. This 100 km road cycle race is open to all levels, and attracts novices as well as serious competitive cyclists. Check out their Blogspot or contact Jeremy Hyatt at for more information.

A popular route includes cycling Graham Island from Old Massett to Queen Charlotte, checking out the attractions along the way. Check our map at the end of this page and also

The BC Ferries terminal is located just west of the Haida village of Skidegate and east of Queen Charlotte.   The Kwuna ferry crosses from Skidegate Landing (Graham Island) to Alliford Bay (Moresby Island), throughout the day and evening. A paved highway connects Alliford Bay to the community of Sandspit, 14kms/9miles to the east. This stretch of highway is breathtaking and worth the extra few kilometers of travel.

If you have a bike that can handle gravel roads, the opportunities are endless. There is an extensive network of logging roads on both Graham and Moresby Islands. Many of these roads are no longer used for active logging, and some have ditches across them that prevent vehicle traffic. There is also an unpaved logging road connecting Port Clements to Queen Charlotte. Maps are recommended for back road travel.

Explore the backroads leading you into abandoned pioneering sites, old railway and logging sites! Many of the logging roads on Moresby Island and the southern part of Graham Island ascend mountains, providing spectacular views.

Come visit our world!