Hugging the coastline of Rooney Bay, the thriving Haida village of Skidegate is now reaching up the mountainside and boasts a growing population, expanding economic opportunities, its own water treatment plant and a cultural renaissance and pride that permeates every aspect of life here.
Located on Skidegate Inlet at the south end of Graham Island, Haida Gwaii, Skidegate’s 800+ residents live a strong cultural life that includes food gathering, potlatching, ceremony, song and dance. This way of living combined with an aggressive enthusiasm for moving forward in health, education, careers and economic development makes Skidegate a dynamic place to live and visit.
Commercial fishing and logging, once the main sources of employment are slowly being replaced with ecotourism and cultural-related work. Haida art is world renowned. The Kaay ’llnagaay Heritage Centre will also provide employment for local residents and will include teaching centres, a large performance area, an expanded museum, and a lodge for visitors. It will showcase Haida culture, past and present, to the world and to our own people for generations to come.
Who lives here? In the late 1830’s, smallpox came to the islands and all the villages at both the north and south Haida Gwaii were devastated - our population declined to about 500. The people of Rose Spit and Cape Ball villages on the east coast were the first to relocate to Skidegate in 1850. In 1889, the villagers from Cumshewa arrived. By 1893, the families from all the southern villages moved to Skidegate. By the end of the 19th century Skidegate and Old Massett were the main centres of Haida culture.
Today, there are descendents from most of the southern villages living in Skidegate; all of who are members of clans with their own chiefs, crests, stories and histories. The name Skidegate, is an English version of the Haida word SGIIDAGIDS which means child of red chiton. The original name of the village was HLGaagilda.
The Bill Reid Pole
The Bill Reid pole at the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program longhouse was raised in 1978, this pole was the first to be raised in Skidegate in over one hundred years.
Known throughout the world as a centre of spirituality, Balance Rock sits at the edge of Hecate Strait. This site is a popular place for a picnic or to just sit and ponder this natural phenomena.
Spirit Lake Trail
This 3 km circular walking trail winds its way through many different forest types and loops in a series of interconnected trails around two lakes. On route you can see many culturally modified trees trees that were tested by our ancestors for use in houses, poles and weaving. The trailhead is marked by a stunning carved cedar gateway depicting the Wasco sea monster.
The Canoe Shed
The Canoe Shed houses Bill Reids famous 50 ft cedar canoe called Loo Taas (back) as well as the Loo-plex, a full scale fibreglass model of the original (foreground) . Both canoes are used for ceremonies, weddings and the annual Skidegate Days canoe races. There are usually other projects taking place at the Canoe Shed things like paddle-making or bentwood box construction.
The Carving Shed
Visit the carving shed and watch amazing local artists transform red andyellow cedar logs into totem poles that depict the crests of the Haida clans. Visitors are welcome, there are no set hours for visiting but mornings are generally a good time.
Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay 'Llnagaay
Six monumental poles were raised in 2001 to signal the beginning of this world-class cultural centre. The Haida Gwaii Museum, which is a part of this centre, has an large collection of Haida cultural materials and art. This multi-million dollar project, nearing completion, will tell the story Haida Nation and it will be told to you by the Haida Nation.
The beach in front of Skidegate offers an interesting assortment of intertidal treasures. At low tide you can look for crabs, moon snails, starfish, clams and mussels. Watch for whales, sea lions, porpoises and watch the seals as they watch you.
Haida art is not all you will find in the shops at Skidegate. This central village offers souvenirs, clothing, videos, groceries and gas everything a traveller will need including a safe friendly atmosphere. For more information on businesses in Skidegate see our Businesses page.