The southernmost of the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia is reminiscent of the local traditional hunting and fishing culture of the North American Haida Indians. The former village was abandoned in the 19th century.
Anthony Island: facts
|Official title:||Anthony Island|
|Cultural monument:||on the island formerly known as Anthony Island, today under the indigenous name »Skung Gwaii«, the abandoned village of Nunsting in the 19th century with the remains of 10 cedar houses and 32 totem poles, the former center of life for 300 Haida people|
|Country:||Canada, British Columbia|
|Location:||Nunsting (Skung Gwaii), on the southern tip of the Haida Gwaii (archipelago of the Queen Charlotte Islands), north of Vancouver|
|Meaning:||outstanding example of an indigenous hunting and fishing culture in North America|
Anthony Island: history
|around 5000 BC Chr.||evidence of settlement on the Queen Charlotte Islands through finds of wedge cores and cuttings|
|1774||Visit by Juan Pérez Hernandez|
|1778||Visit of Captain James Cook on his third trip around the world|
|around 1880||Nunsting gave up, the last 25 residents left the village|
Faded totems on a deserted island
Lonely, the rough coast of the remote, narrow island of Skung Gwaii defies the Pacific tides in Gwaii Haanas National Park. The words “Gwaii Haanas” from the Haida language caress the archipelago of well over a hundred mostly uninhabited islands, which extend on the southern tip of the archipelago of the Queen Charlotte Islands as “islands of wonder and beauty”.
The abandoned Haida village of Nunsting on Skung Gwaii is one of the most impressive historic Indian sites on the Pacific coast. Decades-old, weather-beaten totem poles document the legacy of an important culture of the North American natives as silent, upright witnesses of the times. According to pharmacylib, on the Pacific coasts of Canada and Southeast Alaska, especially in the Haida settlements, the free-standing stakes served not only as decorations, but above all as status symbols. Their ornate carvings point to their ancestors and legends; Stylized animal figures such as ravens allow conclusions to be drawn about the ancestry of the Haida in question. With the help of European tools, this art of totem carving reached its peak in the second half of the 19th century.
The ancestors of the Haida settled the Queen Charlotte Islands several millennia before our modern era. They fished the rich salmon population and extracted the rot-resistant red cedar wood from the lush rainforests for building canoes, totems and longhouses, the traditional residential buildings. The ideal living conditions on the Pacific coast favored the establishment of permanent settlements, which is one of the reasons why these shores were the most densely populated areas of Canada before the arrival of the first Europeans. In view of the dense, inaccessible forests in the hinterland, the settlements were always on the water, on the island’s only transport artery.
Nunsting was settled by the Haida for around 2000 years. Shortly after the first European exploration of the Pacific coast, European seafarers and traders reached the islands in the North Pacific on their first voyages at the end of the 18th century. The trade was profitable and Nunsting flourished. But again and again there were bloody clashes between Indians and fur traders, which mainly claimed numerous victims among the Indians. They got rid of diseases that were brought in, against which the Haida had no defenses. In the period that followed, the number of villagers fell more and more, before the last of them turned their backs on the island for good at the end of the 19th century.
After the first contact with the whites, the “First Nations”, as the North American natives call themselves today, were confronted with the demise of their culture. Displaced and driven into economic dependency as a result of the settlement pressure of immigrant Europeans, it met the fate of a neglected minority without political influence for decades. For several years, however, the “First Nations” have confidently insisted on their traditional land rights, some of which have now been recognized by the Canadian federal government. Outwardly, the newly awakened self-confidence of the indigenous peoples of Canada is documented in the enforcement of formalities: The name of the South Moresby National Park was changed to “Gwaii Haanas National Park”, and Anthony Island was renamed “Skung Gwaii”. However, the administrative reforms carried out had a much more lasting effect: Gwaii Haanas is now under the joint supervision of the Haida tribal council and the Canadian national park administration. If you want to visit the islands, you first have to take part in an introductory event, at which the dangers of tourism for the ecology and the historical settlements are explained. Access is carefully regulated to protect nature and cultural sites so that future visitors can get an unadulterated impression of the lonely wilderness islands.