From the top of their pole, Haida Watchmen who might have been on the lookout for invaders from foreign lands centuries ago are now welcoming visitors to Skidegate. Master harvesters, carvers and navigators, the Haida were true masters of the sea.
A visit at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate is the best way to start seeing the world through the eyes of a very successful nation with great knowledge, elaborate trade networks, rich material culture and a wealth of traditions.
There are as many histories of Canada as there are are First Nations. If anything, the Haida have reclaimed their history in an inspiring way -- one where they are again taking control of their destiny, their resources.
They are developing a tourism industry that is based on sound stewardhip practices.
And quite frankly, the Haida are showing the world a part of Canada that most Canadians know very little about and that most will likely never see. Because, to come here and to experience Haida Gwaii the way it should be experienced requires from visitors that they be prepared to be exposed to a world that has very little to do with what most of us were led to believe Canada was like when we went to school.
My first impression of Haida Gwaii was that of a land inhabited by a people who draw their identity from the place they inhabit with great wisdom.
It seems one of the lessons I learned is that material wealth can play a positive role in how a people grounds itself in the environment which nutured it.
My visit to the Haida Heritage Centre certainly opened my eyes. I'm OK with that. I am just along for the journey... just as long as I learn a little bit more every day from those I share my journey with.