Haida Gwaii / Queen Charlotte Islands Reference Books
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The boat's library has a really good selection of books on the natural and cultural history of the Charlottes. I mention a few guide and general interest books here that will enhance your knowledge of the Islands and help you to plan your trip. Most are available through major booksellers (at least on an order basis). If you like to shop locally, there are numerous gift shops on the Islands that offer most of these books for sale (Northwest Coast Books www.nwcbooks.com  e-mail: sales@nwcbooks.com  1-250-559-4681, Rainbows Gallery: 250-559-8420, Joy's Island Jeweller’s: 250-559-8890 and the Haida Gwaii Museum: 250-559-4643 are just a few in the Queen Charlotte City area).


Guide Books:

  • Haida Gwaii, The Queen Charlotte Islands - Dennis Harwood (2000, $18.95 CDN$) Good up to date general guide with sections on the geography, social history and natural attractions of the Islands.
  • Guide To The Queen Charlotte, Islands Haida Gwaii (2001 edition) - Observer Publishing (Phone: 1-250-     559-4680, $3.95) Published annually. A good source of who offers what and things to do while on the Charlottes.
  • Haida Gwaii: Journeys Through The Queen Charlotte Islands - Ian Gill and David Nunik (1997, $18.95) Fabulous photo's, text a bit coloured.
  • A Guide To The Queen Charlotte Islands, Twelfth Edition - Neil Carey (1998, $14.95)
  • Trail Guide To The Queen Charlotte Islands (or something...) - Fern Henderson (published by the Haida Gwaii Museum, ~ $7.00). A great little guide to hiking trails on the Charlottes. Available through the Museum 250-559-4643 and other outlets on the Islands.
  • The Queen Charlotte Islands - Book 2, Of Places and Names - Kathleen Dalzell (1973, numerous reprintings in paper) The level of detail in this book probably extends beyond "general interest". I have it on the boat as a great reference source providing lots of history through a place name format.
  • Islands At The Edge - Islands Protection Society (1984). Not actually a 'guide book' but has a wealth of information and great photographs. Put together by John Broadhead and Thom Henley as part of the effort to increase awareness of the value of preserving Gwaii Haanas. Northwest Coast Books (www.nwcbooks.com ; (250) 559-4681) may have a copy.

Rob's picks:

  • Bill Reid and the Haida Canoe – Tells the story of the Northwest Canoe from its zenith in pre-contact times, through its decline in the late nineteenth century, to its revival in Lootaas (Wave Eater) which Bill Reid built for Expo '86, to its culmination with the Tribal Canoe Journeys of the twenty-first century and The Spirit of Haida Gwaii sculptures. Bill Reid expressed awe for the traditional Haida canoe and what it represents visually, symbolically, and culturally. In his words, "Western art starts with the figure—West Coast Indian art starts with the canoe."
  • Solitary Raven - When Haida sculptor Bill Reid died in 1998, he was more widely and more fervently admired than any other Native American artist. Reid attained his greatest fame in the visual arts, but words were his first professional medium. He made his living as a radio announcer and script writer until he received his first large carving commission, in 1958. Indeed, one of his several Haida names was Kihlguulins, "the one with the beautiful voice." His oratorical and literary gifts are rightly part of the Reid legend.
    Despite that gift for words, much of what he wrote was published only in the fugitive domain of newspapers, magazines, and exhibition catalogues. Other works were broadcast or recorded as the voice-tracks of documentary films but never printed. Still others have waited until now to be released in any form.
    This book collects, for the first time, the most important of these widely scattered writings: seminal statements on the art of the Northwest Coast, on the role of the Native American artist in a multicultural world, and on the quintessential role of both the artist and the environment in the survival of human culture.
  • The Spirit of Haida Gwaii - Elegant and evocative, this is a classic that pays tribute to one of the great sculptural works of this century. The artist Bill Reid, who is part Haida, is internationally renowned for his totem poles and other large pieces, as well as for his work on a small scale in silver and gold. His masterpiece, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, is a bronze canoe six meters (20 feet) long, filled to overflowing with the creatures of Haida mythology. Its ten passengers include the Raven, the Eagle, the Bear and his human wife, the Mouse Woman and the Dogfish Woman. In the middle stands the Chief holding in his hand a smaller sculpture: a talking stick that depicts the story of creation in Haida terms. Ulli Steltzerís superb black-and-white photographs record and reveal intimate insights into the creative process of this sculpture, as well as the parts and the whole of this monumental work. The story of the sculpture and of its creator, Bill Reid, is engagingly related by Robin Laurence. And Bill Reidís own descriptions of the creatures in the canoe provide glimpses into the mythic complexity and power of The Spirit of Haida Gwaii.
  • All That We Say Is Ours – Ian Gill (2009) "In chronicling the Haida’s political and cultural renaissance, Gill has crafted a gripping, multilayered narrative that will have far-reaching reverberations. “This book will make you want to cheer, even as it raises your blood pressure." —John Vaillant, author of The Golden Spruce
  • The Golden Spruce – A True Story Of Myth, Madness And Greed - John Vaillant (2005) "A tree with luminous glowing needles, the golden spruce was unique, a mystery that biologically speaking should never have reached maturity; Grant Hadwin, the man who cut it down, was passionate, extraordinarily well-suited to wilderness survival, and to some degree unbalanced. But as John Vaillant shows in this gripping and perceptive book, the extraordinary tree stood at the intersection of contradictory ways of looking at the world; the conflict between them is one reason it was destroyed. Taking in history, geography, science and spirituality, this book raises some of the most pressing questions facing society today."
  • Passage to Juneau, A Sea and Its Meanings - Jonathan Raban (2000, $23.00) From the aft cover: "As Raban steers his 35-sailboat up the Northwest coast, he combines stunningly apt natural observation with mordant social commentary, encyclopedic learning with an unsparing narrative of personal loss. He invents an entire vocabulary of metaphors for wind and water. "Passage to Juneau" is a masterpiece of the literature of the sea, a work that overflows with wisdom, humor, sadness, and suspense". A great read.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, The Fates Of Human Societies - Jared Diamond (1998, $19.99) "This is a brilliantly written, whirlwind tour through 13,000 years of history on all the continents - a short history of everything about everybody. The origins of empires, religion, writing, crops and guns are all here. By at last providing a convincing explanation for the differing developments of human societies on differing continents, the book demolishes the grounds for racist theories of history. It's account of how the modern world was formed is full of lessons for our own future" Paul R. Ehrlich
  • Story as Sharp as a Knife: An Introduction to Classical Haida Literature - Robert Bringhurst ( Douglas & McIntyre 1998, recently released in paperback.) Looks at Haida mythology as the poetry it is with interesting analysis of the individual Haida "poets" who patiently told the stories to Swanton and other ethnologists in the early 1900's.
  • Haida Monumental Art: Villages of the Queen Charlotte Islands - George F. MacDonald (1994, $45.00) A very reasonably priced large format book that is gauranteed to take you back in time. George was curator of the national Gallery in Ottawa and remains as one of the most knowledgeable people on N.W. coast native art and culture.
  • Collapse – Jared Diamond
  • A Short History of Progress – Ronald Wright
  • 1491 – Charles Mann
  • An Inconvenient Truth – Al Gore
  • Field Notes From A Catastrophe – Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Heat – George Monbiot
  • Power Down: Options & Actions For A Post-Carbon World – Richard Heinburg
  • The Long Emergency: Surviving The Converging Catastrophe’s Of The 21st Century – James Howard Kunstler

(You can see that I have a strange, perhaps macabre, attraction to learning of the coming Armageddon…)


Gwaii Haanas | History | Heritage Sites | Attractions | Natural History | Where are the Charlottes? | How to Get There | National Geographic Award | Reference Books