Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia
These photographs show Haida and Tlingit totem art and carvings from Victoria, the Queen Charlotte Islands and Haines, Alasaka. The west coast is rich in Haida and Tlingit art; however, most of the totems you'll find in villages and towns were created within the last 50 years or so, even though aboriginal communities have lived and carved on the west coast for time immemorable. European settlers believed totems were heathen and destroyed most of them in British Columbia -- as a result, very few original totems remain. There are a few villages along the Queen Charlotte Islands where you will find the remains of some old Haida villages. The villages were abandoned in the late 1800s reduced the Haida population from about 10,000 to a mere 300 (one European man landed on Charlotte soil *knowingly* carrying small pox). After the outbreak, the Haida moved to the northern parts of the islands in towns like Massett and Skidegate. Most poles are raised at a ceremony called a potlatch, where the family presented gifts to everyone attending. A family would have to accumulate great wealth in order to hold a potlatch - and wealth was shown by "giving away" rather than "accumulating" possessions. Memorial totems (many of which housed the dead) would be left to rot and naturally succum to the earth -- all part of the reincarnation beliefs of the Haida people. Unfortunately, many totems (in effect tombs) were exported/imported to museums around the world. The Haida are now asking for repatriation and a return of their ancestor's bones. Haida representatives recently went to Chicago and reclaimed bones from the musuem there. The Canadian government and Haida nation are now in the process of buildling a $20 million museum to house Haida artifacts on the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Travel Stock Photography for the Nature Stock Photography Library by Professional Photographer Christina Craft