On our trip to Haida Gwaii we went to Tow Hill, as do most visitors to the area. It is located well east of Massett along North Beach at the mouth of the Hiellen River and within Naikoon Provincial Park. In geological terms Tow Hill is a volcanic plug comprised of columnar basalts that are visible on its ocean face. Tow Hill is also the location of important stories in Haida oral history, and the signage at this location reflects that; more on one story below. To see this location on a map, go to this link – Tow Hill in centre.
First, a bit of an explanation about the photos, since this is first and foremost a photo-blog. It so happened that the only rain we experienced on our visit was this day. And it rained steadily, the kind of rain that is hard to see, but necessitates fast wiper speeds. The kind of rain that coats mud all over the (white) car, thrown up from the dirt road, but the kind of rain which washes it all off once you hit pavement again. It was like being in a cloud, in fact we were in a cloud, and we both got soaked, though it was warm and not uncomfortable. And that goes some way to explaining why my pictures look like they were taken in a cloud. The rest of the explanation is that I got a fog on the inside surface of the lens filter, which I thought was rain on the outside and kept on trying to wipe off (there was lots of rain on the filter too). But, not wanting to point the filter upwards for a closer look (to keep it as dry as possible), I did not notice the inner fog for a long time. Thus, the foggy feel is very much enhanced in these photos and it threw off the colour necessitating a black and white treatment, and higher contrast too, to cut through some of the fog.
Enough about the photography. The Haida story of Tow Hill is very interesting, and has some small parallels with Sahsima, a transformer stone located in my neighbourhood in Victoria, and which my regular viewers will have seen a lot of.
The beach in front of Tow Hill is accessed along a boardwalk, following the sign posts for the blowhole, which is also in this beach. The walk is level, the boardwalk brand new and it is pleasant and easy with lots of benches. We first went up to the top of Tow Hill (more on that in another post) and then on our way down, once we could see the beach, short cut over a path and thus missed the sign that is set up to greet visitors (those that follow the proper, ecosystem friendly, route anyway). The text from the sign is transcribed below the picture of it. If you have been hanging around this blog for any length of time you will be used to my occasional presentation of these signs and monuments and the wording on them. My photos were not good enough to make legible crops, hence the transcription below. A slightly different version of this text and orthography, charmingly illustrated, can be found here (Ryan, I recommend it to you especially). Some photos follow, which I think illustrate places on this beach that are mentioned in the addendum to the story (“The Feud Continued”) as mentioned on the sign.
Taaw and his Elder Brother
The Story of Tow Hill
Taaw isgyaan ’l kwáay isin Juus káahlii gaa náa.aagan. ’Waagyaan k’aad giidii ’l aw ’laa ga isdaawgaangan.
Taaw and his elder brother lived at Juus káahlii (Juskatla), they say. And their mother gave them young dogfish.
’Waagyaan gam Taaw ga ’l aw k’aad giidii isdaa.angangaan. Taaw hin ’l sdangwaan kya.aawaayaan.
And then their mothere didn’t give Taaw any young dogfish. The two of them, so they say, were named “Taaw.”
’Waagyaan gam k’aadee giidii ’laa ga tl’ isdaansii ’l kinsdluu ’l kiidanáan.
And when he saw that he wasn’t getting any dogfish, he walked away in disgust.
’Waagyaan ’l gut’iidan. ’Waagyaan Yat’áahl káahlii guud ’l gudaalsgyaan.
And he started off, pulling himself along on his bum, And next he went down through Kumdis passage.
’Waagyaan ajii gawee káahlguud ’l gudaalaan. ’Waagyaan K’aayang ’l geihlsdluu, Yaahl ’l kinggaadaagaan.
And from there he went down through gaw (Masset) Inlet. And when he got to Kayung, Raven ran out of the house talking angrily to him.
’Waagyaankwaa ing.guu ’l gyáa.aangaan. ’Waagyaan kwaayee ’l t’axusdáayaan.
Then Raven stood upon a stone. And he broke the stone by jumping up and down.
Hlgat’at’áas hin.uu kwaayee kya.aang, Yaahl t’axusdáayaan gahlaa.
That rock is called Hlgat’at’áas (“Stone broken by foot”) because Raven shattered it with his feet.
’Waagyaan sda ’l gut’iidaan. ’Waagyaan Tsaawan Kun gu ’l káatl’aagaan.
And Taaw went on. And he was going to stay at Tsaawan Kun (Chown Point).
’Waagyaan guu gagan ’l king.gan. ’Waagyaan gam gaa ’l gaa ’l guu’laa.angaan.
And there he looked at himself. And he didn’t like it there.
’Waagyaan haw isin sda ’l gut’iidaan. ’Waagyaan Yaagan guu ‘l káatl’aagaan.
And then he went away again. And then he arrived at Yaagan (Yakan).
’Waagyaan guu isin ’l guu’laa.angaan. ’Waagyaan haw isin sda l’gut’iidaan.
And again, he didn’t like it there. And again he moved from there.
’Waagyaan Hl’yaalang gandlee jings ’l k’aawaan.
And then he sat for a long time at Hl’yaalang gandlee (Hiellen River).
‘Waaygyaan gee guu “áatl’an dii ‘laagaa, aaltn’an hl isisgaa,”hin ‘l saawaan.
And in this place he said, so they tell us “I’m good here. Here I will stay.”
Tsaawun kun kwaayee t’iij lanagaa xuyaayan. Yaagan kun kwaayee t’iij ‘laangaa xuyaayaan.
They say some of the rocks at Chown Point were his doing. They say rocks at Yagan Point, that was also his doing.
Story teller – Isaac from Those-Born-at-Hlyaalan (1901)
The Feud Continued
Taaw’s elder brother sent a whale and a large bird against him. The whale slammed against Taaw, making rocks fall from his body. In anger, Taaw turned both the whale and the bird into stone. They still sit on the beach facing Taaw; the bird in front of the stone blowhole.
Artwork: Jaalen Edenshaw
Even though the blowhole must be associated with a stone whale, I can’t but think that this ridge next to that area is the rest of the whale that was turned to stone:
And from the description, this must be the large bird that Taaw also turned to stone – it sits between Tow Hill on the left and the blowhole off picture to the right:
To open the gallery view below for larger pictures, click on any thumbnail below, navigate with the arrows and escape to return to this page.
Canon 5Dii with soaking wet Nikkor-N (pre-AI) 24mm/2.8m lens, ISO320 except first picture which is ISO1250 (we had just stepped out of the dark forest) – various exposures.