Hōkūleʻa Arrives in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

Hōkūleʻa was greeted by tribal leaders and hundreds of community members as she arrived at the Haida village of Old Masset (Gaw) in Haida Gwaii, an archipelago in British Columbia, Canada, yesterday evening.

After two months sailing through Southeast, Alaska, the canoe departed Hydaburg yesterday morning guided by international totem artist Reg Davidson. The crew was also joined onboard by Kasaan tribal president Mike Jones and Haida language immersion teacher Ashley Christianson.

The transit took about 12 hours and once the canoe and crew left the inner waterways of Prince Rupert they experienced fair weather, excellent wind, and following seas allowing them to sail up to eight knots. During the sail, voyage cook Gary Yuen prepared salmon sushi for the crew to enjoy. In the channel crossing the crew saw a large humpback whale, two pods of orcas and an entire flock of eagles as they approached Masset.

Under the leadership of pwo navigator Bruce Blankenfeld, the sail from Hydaburg to Old Masset was captained by Lohiau Paoa. Upon arrival, the crew were greeted with song and dance, gifted with cedar bark headbands then treated to a meal of delicious stew and salmon sandwiches.

According to the Old Masset Village Council, the lands and surrounding waters of Haida Gwaii, along with parts of southern Alaska, are the unceded, ancestral, and traditional territories of the Haida. They have occupied, governed, and responsibly managed Haida Gwaii since time immemorial. Before the arrival of Europeans, they numbered in the tens of thousands, with many of their town sites scattered across the archipelago. The arrival of Europeans brought foreign diseases like smallpox, measles, and typhoid, and their numbers fell to 600 in the early 1900s. As the Haida population dwindled, their people migrated away from their ancestral villages and eventually settled in either Old Masset or Skidegate. Today, Haida Gwaii is home to 5,000 full time residents, Haida people make up approximately half of the population. Old Massett Village is the Haida community located on the north side of Haida Gwaii. It is home to X̱aada families who previously lived in a number of different villages in their territory. Each village had its own dialect and there are five different dialects that are currently spoken by residents of Old Massett.

Weather permitting, Hōkūleʻa is scheduled to make additional stops in British Columbia including Prince Rupert, Hartley Bay, Bella Bella and Port Hardy.