Boat building was a booming industry in the 1900s.

"When the cedar grew, the Haida had thousands of years to develop their boat building skills. Europeans adapted many techniques and styles of the native sea crafts.

"One of the good things about boat building was that Haida builders could get everything here. They got hemlock for the heel, yellow cedar for the ribs and planking. The stern was made out of natural crooks for strength, and jack pine was used for the deck."
-John Bennett

So many boats were built on Haida Gwaii that they became known as "The Haida Fleet." These white boats were made with pride by skilled craftsmen. The plentiful catches which were brought home in their holds also brought pride to Haida fishermen.

Haida fishermen today believe their fathers and grandfathers were so successful at fishing because family members pulled together to pay for the building of boats, and because they fished together as a family once a boat was launched.
Boat building was a booming industry in the 1900s.

"When the cedar grew, the Haida had thousands of years to develop their boat building skills. Europeans adapted many techniques and styles of the native sea crafts.

"One of the good things about boat building was that Haida builders could get everything here. They got hemlock for the heel, yellow cedar for the ribs and planking. The stern was made out of natural crooks for strength, and jack pine was used for the deck."
-John Bennett

So many boats were built on Haida Gwaii that they became known as "The Haida Fleet." These white boats were made with pride by skilled craftsmen. The plentiful catches which were brought home in their holds also brought pride to Haida fishermen.

Haida fishermen today believe their fathers and grandfathers were so successful at fishing because family members pulled together to pay for the building of boats, and because they fished together as a family once a boat was launched.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Boats at Sea

Three Haida fishing boats at sea, circa 1930's.

Photo: Bill Stevens
c. 1930
© Bill Stevens


Fishing boat built at Skidegate, circa 1920.

Photo: Royal British Columbia Museum

PN 16687
© Royal British Columbia Museum


Seinging Boat

"Haida Girl," Massett seining boat

Photo: Allan Wilson

© Allan Wilson


Wilfred Bennett was one of the many fishermen who excelled in boat building. He built approximately twenty-eight seine boats, including the Don Marie and the Bennett. Wilfred’s love of the sea and boat building was passed onto his sons and his grandsons.
Wilfred Bennett was one of the many fishermen who excelled in boat building. He built approximately twenty-eight seine boats, including the Don Marie and the Bennett. Wilfred’s love of the sea and boat building was passed onto his sons and his grandsons.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Boat

"The Bennett"

Photo: John Bennett

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Wilfred Bennett

Wilfred Bennett aboard fishing boat.

Photo: Monty Stewert-Burton

© Monty Stewert-Burton


Despite a respect for the ocean and skillful fishing, in the late 1950s, the Haida fleet began deteriorating.

Many problems between boat owners and the fishing companies surfaced. The fishing companies needed fish for their canneries. The Haidas were capable of catching huge quantities of fish but refused to over-harvest the fish stocks

Recognizing the need to maintain an ecological balance worked against Haida fishermen, as did evolving fishing policies of the times. Some poor management and unfair practices added to their difficulties. Eventually, in the words of John Bennett, "It was only a matter of time before the fishing companies owned the boats."
Despite a respect for the ocean and skillful fishing, in the late 1950s, the Haida fleet began deteriorating.

Many problems between boat owners and the fishing companies surfaced. The fishing companies needed fish for their canneries. The Haidas were capable of catching huge quantities of fish but refused to over-harvest the fish stocks

Recognizing the need to maintain an ecological balance worked against Haida fishermen, as did evolving fishing policies of the times. Some poor management and unfair practices added to their difficulties. Eventually, in the words of John Bennett, "It was only a matter of time before the fishing companies owned the boats."

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Boat

Abandoned boat in Masset.

Photo: Allan Wilson

© Allan Wilson


Recently, the Haida have once again put their ocean experience to work for them in exploring new technologies.

In one such initiative, the Old Massett Village Council entered a joint venture agreement with Six Nations Geo Systems of Six Nations reserve in Ontario. Their shared objective is marketing, training and management of the state-of-the-art Eagle’s Cry Land Research Information System. This Geographical Information System (GIS) will be exploited for its underwater contour mapping, and other research applications. The joint venture partners have agreed to share revenues from system sales and training in the Asian Pacific (including Malaysia, Japan, China, the Philippines and New Zealand), as well as in British Columbia and Alaska.

Haida fishermen remain skeptical about the future of fishing for a living. There is an increase of fishing vessels off the Northwest coast shores chasing smaller fish stocks. A large number of sports fishing companies on Haida Gwaii are competing with the commercial fishermen for access to the salmon. Haida fishermen are also concerned about the vast amount of logging in old-growth forests and the resulting decimation Read More
Recently, the Haida have once again put their ocean experience to work for them in exploring new technologies.

In one such initiative, the Old Massett Village Council entered a joint venture agreement with Six Nations Geo Systems of Six Nations reserve in Ontario. Their shared objective is marketing, training and management of the state-of-the-art Eagle’s Cry Land Research Information System. This Geographical Information System (GIS) will be exploited for its underwater contour mapping, and other research applications. The joint venture partners have agreed to share revenues from system sales and training in the Asian Pacific (including Malaysia, Japan, China, the Philippines and New Zealand), as well as in British Columbia and Alaska.

Haida fishermen remain skeptical about the future of fishing for a living. There is an increase of fishing vessels off the Northwest coast shores chasing smaller fish stocks. A large number of sports fishing companies on Haida Gwaii are competing with the commercial fishermen for access to the salmon. Haida fishermen are also concerned about the vast amount of logging in old-growth forests and the resulting decimation of spawning beds and rivers.

The future of commercial and food fishing for the Haidas is as unsure as a stormy day at sea.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Boat

" Sanglinay "

Photo: John Bennett

© John Bennett


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe the importance of the fishing and boat-building industry to Haida society in modern times
  • Describe the clash between traditional living and modern industrial society, using the history of the Haida fishing industry as an example

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans