The Secret Haida Totem Poles (Cha’atl)

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Ts’aa.ahl Cha’atl’s Mosquito Pole

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.

South Side Unnamed House Frontal Pole

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. 

You can see spherical locations of the photos here: West Side of the Pole | East Side of the Pole

West Side of Unnamed House Frontal

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. 

Island off of the Southern Coast of Cha’atl Island
Leaving to go to Cha’atl Island at Sunrise
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Greg is a city kid who has found his balance between living in the city and the Rocky Mountain National Parks. He has been living in Calgary but has frequently ventured out to Banff, BC and as far as Haida Gwaii on the west coast, experiencing and capturing stories to tell others. Currently he is studying Computer Science at the University of Alberta and is using the more northern post to better explore Jasper, Bowron and David Thompson Country.

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