Culture

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Historic sites and cities

Anthony Island - Home of the Haida, Canada. ©UNESCO 1997
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Anthony Island - Home of the Haida, Canada

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Language(s): English

Summary/Historical Context

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SGang Gwaay

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the indigenous Northwest people inhabited the remote Anthony Island as well as other spits of land that make up the Queen Charlotte Islands, sandwiched between the Hecate Strait and the Pacific. (In the Haida tongue, Anthony Island is known as SGang Gwaay and Queen Charlotte is Haida Gwaii.) The tribes' people, whose population likely peaked at more than 7,000 archipelago-wide, were Neptunes of the sea. They existed on the salmon, halibut, and other marine life caught from their canoes, which were constructed out of the trunk of a single red cedar. These marvelous crafts could sleep 12 people and accommodate up to 60 paddlers. The Haida's woodworking skills also extended to onshore structures, including cedar plank and long houses, and the iconic mortuary and memorial poles on par with Easter Island's statues—minus the mystery.

For hundreds of years, a contingent of Haida lived simply and industriously on Anthony Island, until the Europeans dropped by. During the late 1700s, explorers from afar, such as James Cook and George Dixon, visited the islands. And though they did not stay long, they left behind a devastating parting gift. By the late 1800s, European-borne diseases such as small pox had decimated the Haida population to triple figures. In the Ninstints village on Anthony Island alone, their numbers dwindled from 300 to less than 30 before the village was abandoned around 1884.

Place/country: Canada
Series: Treasures of the World Heritage of Mankind
Type: Documentary
Duration:
Credits: Wolfgang Katzke, director. ZDF Südwestfunk, producer. Arno Hefner, producer ; Ralf Nolting, producer. 16:9 Action Plan of the European Union, co-producer ; UNESCO WHC, co-producer.
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