Masset Cemetery

The Village of Masset has a wonderful cemetery set in the forested dunes on the far side of Delkatla Nature Sanctuary from Masset. It is a wonderfully natural setting, with the forest growing among the graves, and moss covering everything, and a perfectly local expression of grave ornamentation, for instance with many graves having a few, or many, agates or shells or cedar-bark flowers, glass fishing floats or other local adornments. It is interesting to see so many scallop shells – I wonder if they are placed in the knowledge of their ancient associations with Christianity (I have excavated a Roman coffin adorned with scallop shells cast into it’s lead lining) or if they are used in the same way as are the local stones, and other things from the sea and land.

This is not a Haida cemetery, though it seems a number of Haida are buried here. The Haida cemetery at Old Massett has strict signs forbidding photography (as does the one at Skidegate) so I have no photos for comparison from those places. I was struck by the environment of this cemetery – if one is going to be buried, what better kind of place to end up? In the next few days I will show other views of this cemetery – some of the older parts, possibly some b&w treatments. And, I was also struck by the things left on the graves – I doubt very much that many of these would last in an urban cemetery for more than a few days before someone helped themselves.

setting for one of the agate covered graves


Grave with light on flowers


Scallops, agates and flowers


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8 thoughts on “Masset Cemetery

  1. I have no problem photographing graves or cemeteries as I feel the photographs serve as a sort of memorial to them… a continued spirituality. I do recognize however how certain cultures are adverse to photographing them or even living persons for that matter as questions of the soul come into play.

    I remember walking through this cemetery as a 10 year old boy living in Masset. We would walk through this cemetery on hikes from Balsam Crescent to the beach. The setting was incredible and somewhat eerie under the tall trees with the light streaming through the branches above falling on the moss covered old graves. Thank you for the photos.

    T. White


    • Hi Thomas – thanks so much for commenting and sharing your personal memory of this spot. It adds to the story of the cemetery for the rest of us. I am expecting that others also feel as you do about the photographs since there are no don’t-photograph signs here, but are at both Skidegate and Old Massett cemeteries.


  2. What a profound and poignant post. I love to photograph cemeteries although I do admit at times I feel like I’m violating something. I find interest in the juxtaposition of life vs. death, I guess, there is some inherent beauty in these settings. Particularly on the west coast of Canada, I find. This is a wonderful post, my friend, I thoroughly enjoyed it.


  3. Pingback: Masset Cemetery « burnt embers

  4. Hi Ken. It is very peaceful. I am not sure it is well kept in the sense of being groomed and looked after. Moss, while it gets everywhere, does not get out of control in the sense of being long and shaggy like grass, so little care is needed. But, individual graves, the newer ones especially, are clearly tended by loved ones. Some of the older enclosed plots are falling into disrepair, but many of those show signs of attention in the past few years.


  5. It looks very peaceful and well kept. i think cemeteries have a quality that make photographers very attracted to them. This one seems very colorful as well.


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