First appeared as “My Secret Haida Way” in the April 2017 issue of Air Canada enRoute.
It’s calm, sunny and a little chilly as the Haida Gwaii Highlander putters out from the Queen Charlotte harbour with Trent Moraes at the wheel. This afternoon, it so happens that a local Haida chief from the Skidegate Gidins clan wants to check his crab traps, so we’re heading out to pick him up. Steering the landing craft around a bay and right up to the shore, Moraes tells me this is the same boat the Royals embarked on when they visited the islands during their Canadian tour last fall. “And now you’re with Haida royals!” he says, smiling. When Chief Wiigaanad (whose English name is Sidney Crosby) gets on board, all casual in a red tuque with a turquoise pompom, dark-rimmed glasses and gumboots, I cancel the curtsey and get to chatting. As we skirt the coastline of Skidegate, one of the larger communities on this northern archipelago, he points out his totem pole, the first to be erected by a chief in 100 years. Wiigaanad hauls his traps up from 20 metres, throws back the female encrusted in coral-coloured eggs and those that aren’t a hand’s-span wide, and there’s our dinner on deck. For bait, he’s using a chunk of halibut that would give a fishmonger emotions. No wonder people around here say the islands could feed all of Canada. A feeling of abundance surrounds us – it seems that everything and anything is out there.