As part of the Oyoyocik Student Leadership Group's trip to Haida Gwaii, we are thrilled to share daily dispatches about their experiences during the trip
This day started incredibly early, with having to be on the road by 5:30am, we were all very tired. Yet, we all knew that this day was going to be one of our most exciting. We got to Haida Styles by 7:30 where we met our guides for the day, Alex and James. We started by going on an hour and a half zodiac boat tour to SGang Gwaay, a ghost village where mortuary poles, which were dedicated to some of the more prominent members of their village were buried, to honour their life contributions and to help guide them to the afterworld, stood after many years. Our guide Alex told us about the history of this village and how smallpox was used to decimate the entire Haida population within three weeks, yet she spoke with such understanding, and appreciation of her own culture as she was Eagle Clan, from Haida Gwaii. We spent a couple hours on this island, learning about the history as well as eating lunch together on the shore, watching the water and sharing stories of our own culture's.
On our ride to this small island, which was guarded, and upkept by two watchmen and their granddaughter who were tasked with keeping the history of this island safe and ready for tours, we saw seals, sea lions, and whales! It began with two gray whales who were both feeding close together off one of the shores. It was amazing to see, and even better to watch everyone's face on the boat just absolutely light up each time the whales breached the surface to breathe. Then we saws the little tiny seals, squirming around on the rocks and swimming in little groups in the water, they were just as curious to see us as we were to see them. Once we were able to observe the sea lions, everyone was laughing and smiling like crazy. There were over 50 of them and they began to roar at us, some were in the water and some were on the rocks just soaking up the sun. We had the chance to see the huge alpha male, weighing around 2000 pounds jump into the water with the rest of them, quite a sight to see and we were all very grateful.
We continued on towards the hot springs, about 40 minutes away. The watchmen on this island as well as our guides, told us about how earthquakes a few years ago halted the flow of the water into the pools and only within the past year, has the water been able to return. Back home, in our culture, we have what you call, sweat lodges, which is a traditional way of cleansing your body, here in Haida however, their traditional ways of cleansing and purifying, was water. The return of these hot springs to them was so incredibly special because it meant that they were able to experience part of their own culture once more, which is important because we, as indigenous people, need to be able to continue to upkeep our tradtiional ways so that our culture can continue to thrive.
We also had the chance to visit windy bay, where an over thousand year old tree stands inside the forest. Alex, our guide, talked about how amazing this tree was because of how many generations, and history that the tree has stood here for. Two years ago, the top of the tree broke off, but in seeing how the rest is still standing after so long, put the look of awe onto all of our faces. We admired and reflected on how this tree has been able to survive so much of the destruction that happened on the islands of Haida Gwaii, and how it was almost a symbol, of the resiliency of the Haida People.
The highlight of our day, was definitely when we were all blessed with the chance to observe humback whales, breaching the water hundreds of time. Having about 50 whales in the area was an absolute treat that all of us were so thankful for. Seeing these huge creatures in their natural habitat, made us all a little tearful because we felt so truly connected to the earth. This experience, will defintely stay with us for the rest of our lives.
Brianna | Grade 12 | Collège Jeanne-SauvéCheyenne | Grade 12 | Glenlawn CollegiateKelsey | Grade 12 | J.H BrunsTameika | Grade 12 | Collège BéliveauMia | Grade 11 | Dakota CollegiateTieller | Grade 10 | Winsor Park Collegiate
Randi | Nelson McIntyre