This 30-foot canoe was being built by Jaalen Edenshaw in Newtown, part of Old Masset, when this photo was shot in July of 2019. (Archie Stocker Sr. / Black Press Media file photo)

Haida Gwaii: Master boat builders, epic canoes

Traditional First Nations canoes were exquisitely made

Canoe culture is a central part of First Nations’ history on the coast of British Columbia and the most-famous canoes of them all are from Haida Gwaii.

The traditional west coast canoe, carved from a single tree, could reach up to 65 feet in length, and the Haida Gwaii, with their rugged coast, island independence and large trees, were known as master boat builders.

Open water between Haida Gwaii and the coast of British Columbia stretches some 80 kilometres through what can be some of the most treacherous waters on the planet.

No discussion of canoes and Haida Gwaii would be complete without mentioning the Lootas, or wave-eater.

Famous Haida artist Bill Reid oversaw the construction of this 50-foot canoe for Expo 86, a world’s fair held in Vancouver in 1986 that focused on transportation and communication.

This photo, submitted by Roxanne Watson, shows a canoe made in the traditional style, on the beach at Haida Gwaii.


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