Sunday, August 24, 2014

Haida Gwaii: Visiting the Haida Heritage Centre on Graham Island

Haida Gwaii is formerly known as
The Queen Charlotte Islands
One way to access the cultural and natural marvels that are now known as Haida Gwaii is by taking a BC Ferry from Prince Rupert, British Columbia (on the mainland) to Skidegate. 

Once on Graham Island, a main attraction, and great starting point, is the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay. This is a short scenic drive from the ferry landing.

The beautiful complex on the bay is an award-winning First Nations art and cultural tourism attraction. The complex consists of the Haida Gwaii Museumtwo classrooms, the Performance HouseCanoe HouseBill Reid Teaching Centre, the Carving House, the Haida Gwaii Musuem Gift Shop and the Kay Bistro.

I first encountered the Haida Heritage Centre after a long ferry ride. Docking early in the morning, we had to wait for the short ferry ride to Moresby Island and decided to take a drive along the water. 
Totem at Dawn

Just as dawn brought a new day to the island, we found the totems at the Centre beautifully lighted by the sun peeking through the early morning mist. It was a magical moment. I was eager to return and see the entire complex including the museum.

Hours vary by season:
June -  Monday to Saturday 10am - 6pm
Summer (July to August) - Sunday to Wednesday 10am to 6pm and Thursday to Saturday 10am to 8 pm
Winter (September to May) - Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm

The entrance fee ranges up to $15.00  (CDN)  for adults. It is well-worth it.

I visited in June and found many things going on. There was a huge ceremonial pole being carved that was destined to be raised at Gwaii Hanas, work on preserving the native languages was being done, tours were being given of the museum and the gift shop was well-stocked with Haida art.

I spent over an hour inside the museum and was entranced. It is beautifully laid out, anchored with totem poles and features a wonderful collection of Haida argillite. The museum is a great place to being your journey through the islands of Haida Gwaii as you will learn much about Haida culture and art.

New pole being carved at the Centre
After talking with the master carver about the new pole in the Carving House (traditional canoes were on display too), I decided to look for a piece of Haida art at the gift shop. They had argillite and silver jewelry, cedar weavings and cedar carved boxes, books and textiles. All items were authentic and were from local artisans.

When you go, consider a guided tour which will give you even more information about the Haida people and the offerings of the Heritage Centre.