K’oona or Skedans

The village of Skedans (derives from a chief’s name), also K’oona by its proper Haida name, was abandoned around 1880. Smallpox and other diseases had come with the colonisers and decimated the population probably by around 90%. It, like Nintstins (in the very south), was excellently located on a low ridge between two bays. In K’uuna the one to the north was their ‘fridge’, that’s where they collected see food in the rhythm of the tides. The tidal minimum/maximum are marked with dark lines in the sketch map. There were some two dozen dwellings for about 700 people.

A longhouse had a sunken centre, the chief’s accommodation was at the back, in the front lower ranking people and slaves bedded down. In the largest house up to 500 people could gather during a potlatch. Find illustrations here and here.

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Survivors of decimated villages had no choice but to gather more concentrated …Skidegate, Old Masset on the North Island and South Island was emptied. The collectors had been there scavenging and came again and again to take poles or parts thereof, funerary boxes and whatever else museums liked to receive for their exotic collections. Not unlike antique dealers striking Alpine villages for the last family heirlooms like chests or cupboards and offering insultingly little. It’s a deplorable form of preservation, in any case.

Visiting Skedans is as sad and beautiful as visiting an abandoned village in the southern Alps (Ticino Canton e.g.). There was once life, community and now only abandonment is left. Ticino villages are built in stone and remain a long time, Haida villages were built in wood and nature reclaims them rather quickly.

On the way back we got to see the Haida Gwaii Musem from the sea – it’s the place of old Skidegate before it was entirely given up and the Musem site developed. Yet it was still not time to get back to the dock but to enter the narrows and visit some crab traps which held dinner for some of the guests aboard. I find it horrible how they get cooked (toss ’em into boiling water alive) besides, I do not like crab meat. So, no free fresh crab for me, inspite of having been offered.

The forested, mountainous horizon line carries the name Sleeping Beauty. Won’t make it up there, will dream of it perhaps. And for the rest it remains to take in the evening looking out onto the placid waters …then move inside and consider the choice of night cap. Looks Italian enough, Gracie’s Place, might go for a grappa.

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