SGang Gwaay Watchman

SGang Gwaay Llnagaay is one of Haida heritage sites that is under the stewardship of the Haida through the Haida Gwaii Watchmen Program.    The Watchman program takes its name from Haida stories of the Watchman, frequently found in their art and on house frontal poles. Thus, the gender of the name is not a concern to the modern watchmen. Traditionally they kept a watchful eye out for enemies and other events important to their communities.  In Gwaii Haanas and elsewhere on Haida Gwaii there are several Watchman stations set up. For much of the year they are the residences of Haida people who keep an eye on the site that they are associated with and the surrounding waters and lands. They act as tour guides, both providing information to visitors and guiding them through the sites in a way that best protects them from wear and tear. They also take part in conservation programs to help maintain the sites for future generations. Typically there are a mix of knowledgeable older people and younger ones stationed together. While living at these stations they also conduct a number of traditional activities, and teach the younger people how to make things, gather and prepare food for eating or storage and so on. Not to mention a lot of other more modern life skills like operation and maintenance of generators, marine radio and boats.

This post shows some of the facility at SGang Gwaay, the roles performed by the Haida  and some of the products of their activities. In my first SGang Gwaay post I mentioned the Watchman program, and in other posts I have mentioned that one of the Kilgii Gwaay trainee archaeologists, Goox, brought a number of skills to the project that she had obtained while being a watchman, both as a basket weaver and with the operation of equipment.

In that first post about this site I have a portrait of Jordan Yeltatzie, also seen below, who was an archaeologist I worked with in the 1990’s in Gwaii Haanas. One of the things he does as a Watchman is keep an eye on the archaeological sites in the area. This is another village site which is beside the anchorage where people disembark to visit the site. Last winter a tree blew down, lifting a house beam in the air and exposing the shell midden. Jordan asked us to do a quick assessment of the damage and to determine the species of some larger bones to ensure they were not human (they were sea mammal). When we were here last year, we were asked to look at a similar situation in the main village site next to one of the poles.

Watchman Jordan with midden.


The Watchmen included some active weavers on our visit. When they heard that Dale Croes was a basket weaver, they brought out a hat one of them was making, as well as a Chilkat-style weaving also underway. As you can see Dale was happily in his element.

Dale Croes holding a partially completed hat at the Watchman’s cabin


 Visits to the site are carefully planned, with boats calling ahead and scheduling their visits. The Watchmen keep the touring groups small and separated so that the site is not crowded with tourists which both detracts from the experience and can be more damaging to the site. A shelter was constructed at the far end of the village for visitors to wait their turn on the more ‘crowded’ days.

Visitor rain shelter in style of Haida house


To see larger versions of the pictures below, click on any thumbnail and then navigate with the arrows and use escape to return to this page.


This link catalogues my posts on the Kilgii Gwaay 2012 project.

Canon 5Dii, Nikkor-N 24mm/f2.8 lens and SMC Takumar 100mm/f4 macro lens.




7 thoughts on “SGang Gwaay Watchman

  1. Pingback: Museum Welcome House II « burnt embers

  2. Another epic post in this series! I can honestly say that my wife and I are so much hoping to visit this place in the not-too-distant future, and this is a direct result of your great blog posts and photographs my friend!


    • Ryan – another Haiku lands in my blog! And very welcome they are too. This one is so apt, and you just whipped it off. Pretty amazing way with words that you have. Thanks!


    • Hi Lynn, thank you! That combination is what it’s like visiting SGang Gwaay.I think the Watchmen program must have a lot of important effects in the community beyond protecting heritage in remote locations.


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