From food fishing in dugout cedar canoes to commercial fishing in seiners, Haida fishermen have reaped the benefits of the Pacific Ocean with great skill and respect.

"Ever since there has been red cedar on Haida Gwaii, Haidas have built our own boats. Boat builders never wasted anything when they built boats. They would only cut down a tree if they could use the whole thing.

The boat builders used to edge the planks to bear weight. They also had the ability to grasp the concepts of lofting and drawing out boats on paper."
--John Bennett, Stast’a.as clan, 1997.
From food fishing in dugout cedar canoes to commercial fishing in seiners, Haida fishermen have reaped the benefits of the Pacific Ocean with great skill and respect.

"Ever since there has been red cedar on Haida Gwaii, Haidas have built our own boats. Boat builders never wasted anything when they built boats. They would only cut down a tree if they could use the whole thing.

The boat builders used to edge the planks to bear weight. They also had the ability to grasp the concepts of lofting and drawing out boats on paper."
--John Bennett, Stast’a.as clan, 1997.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Unloading Fish

Unloading fish on dock, c. 1930's, Haida Gwaii.

Photo: Hazel Stevens.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


In the old times, sea-going vessels were needed for trade with other tribes. Canoes full of seaweed, potatoes, and dried halibut were brought to the neighbouring tribes to trade for their specialty foods.
In the old times, sea-going vessels were needed for trade with other tribes. Canoes full of seaweed, potatoes, and dried halibut were brought to the neighbouring tribes to trade for their specialty foods.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Construction a Canoe

A dug out canoe being made in the forest near Masset.

Photo: possibly by J. H. Keen.

PN 5409
© Royal British Columbia Museum.


A cash economy began with the fur trade (c.1800) and continued into the fish trade. There was money to be made in the fishing industry. The Haida already had the ingenuity to prosper in commercial fishing climate of the early and mid 1900’s. Thousands of years of knowledge and skills served them well.

The men built their own boats to fish, and the women worked in the many canneries on the island. At the height of commercial fishing, there were fifteen salmon canneries on Haida Gwaii, and over fifty Haida owned commercial vessels.
A cash economy began with the fur trade (c.1800) and continued into the fish trade. There was money to be made in the fishing industry. The Haida already had the ingenuity to prosper in commercial fishing climate of the early and mid 1900’s. Thousands of years of knowledge and skills served them well.

The men built their own boats to fish, and the women worked in the many canneries on the island. At the height of commercial fishing, there were fifteen salmon canneries on Haida Gwaii, and over fifty Haida owned commercial vessels.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Skiff

Skiff made by John Bennett.

John Bennett
c. 1980
© Haida Gwaii Museum, Qay'llnagaay.


"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, Stast’a.as clan,1997.
"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, Stast’a.as clan,1997.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Preparing Fish

Haida woman dressing halibut meat at a fish camp, circa 1901.

Photo: Department of Mines, 1901.

© Department of Mines, 1901


Herring Fishing

Herring fishing in Skidegate Inlet.

Photo: possibly by B. C. Freeman
c. 1897
© Royal British Columbia Museum.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe the history of the Haida fishing industry
  • Relate the tradition of Haida fishing and boat building to their environment
  • Explain the success of Haida fishermen

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