Tansy Visits a World Heritage Site
While sailing aboard the schooner Passing Cloud one of the most anticipated stops, if the weather allows, is at the Haida village site called SGang Gwaay Llnagaay.
SGang Gwaay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (formerly known as Ninstints) on the south-west side of the Gwaii Haanas protected area (see this link for a map). Tansy has been here before (see this link for her visit from four years ago) so she was prepared for the boardwalk from the anchorage – it is a short walk for humans, but a demanding outing for a Hitty.
After stopping at the watchman’s cabin, where Harold one of the Haida Watchmen joined the group to give a tour of the site, Tansy continued on past the boardwalk, though a small ravine and onto the beach in front of the old Haida village.
Once in the site the areas where one may walk are marked out with clam shells. Harold gave the visitors a very interesting talk about the different poles and the history of the site.
There are three main kinds of carved poles that stood at this village, though most of those that remain are Mortuary Poles. Mortuary Poles held the remains of an important person in a cavity in the top of the pole, which formerly had a very large panel attached in front, with a carved or painted crest on it.
Memorial Poles were erected when the body of the person could not be brought home, perhaps they died at sea or were killed far afield in a war. Memorial and Mortuary poles stood in front of the village, a bit in front of the houses.
House Frontal poles are attached to the middle of the front of the house and usually have an entrance hole in them that serves as a doorway into the house. Carved on them are the crests of the clan chief that resides in the house – the crests tell the clan history and symbolise the rights and titles that the clan holds in their territories. They also allow visitors to see who lives in which house, and to find relatives to stay with.
The older houses are usually a bit smaller and only have two main roof beams. The later houses, and the more important chiefs, had six beam houses. You can find out more about Haida houses at this link which also has some historical photographs from Hlñinul Llnagaay or Cumshewa (a different Haida village).
A shelter at the end of the village gave Tansy a chance to shed her damp rain coat for a while and inspect some shells.
After a brief rest, it was time to head back to the Passing Cloud, and then off to the next adventure.