Anthony Island (SGang Gwaay) is the area that gets all the press for having the largest collection of Haida totem poles in their original locations. There are however a few areas less well publicized that have Haida totem poles in their original locations. One of these locations is Cha’atl.
Cha’atl is located on Skidegate Inlet and is only partly exposed to the Pacific Ocean. The village is easily accessible from the west coast which helped the village rise to prominence in the trading that occurred prior to 1834. The village was inhabited until the 1860s when various epidemics forced the constituents to move inland to Skidegate and Masset.
Though a large fire destroyed part of the town in 1878 there are still two well-carved Haida house frontal poles still standing. Natural, free-standing house frontal poles are rare due to their height, as they are extremely susceptible to wind and other elements.
The pole locations are not marked but are not hard to find. The first pole is just a short walk from the steep beach on the south-west side of Chaatl Island. A small trail leads up to the pole. The shaded or south-east facing side of the pole is covered in mosses and generally blends in with the environment. The drier, west facing side is much more defined.
A short walk from the pole at the village site is the Mosquito Pole. This pole is the reason why this village site is famous, and one of the few poles still standing from the 1850’s. The walk is about 1km and follows flagging tape through the forest. Keep an eye out as the Mosquito Pole can blend into its surroundings.
Just like with any other Ancient Village site, please have respect for the area. The village site is massively important to the Haida culture. Please ensure you utilize Leave No Trace Principles while visiting and don’t camp at or near the village site. There are plenty of other beaches that are suitable for camping nearby.