"S'Gang Gwaay - Anthony Island" Moresby Island Travelogue by GrumpyDiver

Moresby Island Travel Guide: 1 reviews and 35 photos

S'Gang Gwaay - UNESCO World Heritage Site

S'Gang Gwaay is actually on Anthony Island and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is sometimes referred to as Ninstints (or Nan Sdins), which is really a bastardization of one of the chiefs names. It lies a short distance off Moresby Island (Gwaii Haanas consists of 138 islands).

While there are ruins of longhouses there, the site is visited primarily to see the mortuary poles that are still standing.

Over 100 years old and in various states of deterioration (the bright colours that the Haida decorate new poles with has long since disappeared).

Detail of totem pole

This is a close up of some of the detailed carving on one of the better preserved totem poles.

Three totem poles

These mortuary poles are all close together. The Haida were almost wiped out by three waves of smallpox brought in by the Europeans. The high concentration of the poles meant that a lot of people had died

Mortuary poles were reserved for important people in the village (the remains were placed in bentwood boxes which were placed on top of the poles).

Scale of the mortuary poles

There were three types of totem poles - mortuary poles (which were used for the remains of chiefs and other important people in the village), memorial poles (for people that had died, but the remains had not been recovered, and house poles, that identified the clan living in the longhouse which sat behind the totem pole.

The mortuary poles were the shortest of the three types, but you can get an idea of their size for the people standing in front of them.

The totem poles and the remains of a longhouse

The large cedar beams in the foreground are roof beams from a longhouse.

Village site

S'Gang Gwaay faced out to sea at this protected cove. S'Gang Gwaay was a winter village. In the summer, some of the Haida moved to a summer camp for hunting and fishing.

The location provided protection from invasion and provided access to the sea for the large dugout canoes that the Haida used.

View from the beach

At one time the area where we see the trees in the background was where the longhouses sat. These grew up once the village was abandoned.

As smallpox decimated their numbers, the Haida moved into villages further north - Skidegate at the south end of Graham Island and Old Masset on the north end of Graham Island (there is also a Haida settlement in Alaska). At one point, there were fewer than 300 Haida left,


Detail of another well preserved totem pole.

  • Page Updated May 9, 2016
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