National Geographic : 1972 Mar
"We put on dances here for tourists from cruise ships," the chief said. "But they are authentic dances, not commercialized ver sions. With them we help keep alive songs and traditions, and a lot of the young folks are taking new interest in their heritage." Northwest from Alert Bay, across Queen Charlotte Sound where the Pacific sweeps un impeded against the mainland, lie the lonely Queen Charlotte Islands. This was the haunt of the Haidas, a proud and skilled people whose daring canoe raids made them feared as the "Vikings of the Pacific Coast." At Skid egate Mission, a village on Graham Island, largest of the Charlottes' 150, I dropped in on Rufus Moody, a modern Haida. He sat in his seaside studio, carving; Mr. Moody is widely known for his exquisite totems and plaques fashioned from argillite, a slatelike stone (following page). The mate rial is found in a hard-to-reach island quarry; by law, only the Haidas may mine it. Island Haidas numbered about 8,000 when the white man came. His diseases reduced the population until in 1900 only about 600 were left. Now the total is 1,500. Most hold jobs as fishermen or loggers. Neighbors Tolerant of Drying Bones The scantily inhabited Queen Charlotte archipelago-its white population only twice as large as its Indian-appeals to people who value isolation. Like the booted, rawboned chap from Wyoming who shared space in a chartered floatplane with me; he was casing the Charlottes because "Wyoming is getting too crowded." Or like Neil and Betty Carey, who built a cabin in a protected cove on the rocky west coast of Moresby Island-the group's second largest; in three months there they "saw only one ship, no aircraft, and no people. And loved it." Neil is a retired U. S. Navy commander, Betty a sun-bronzed boating enthusiast from Washington State who has traced Haida coastal routes in her own dugout canoe. They also have a home in Sandspit, metropolis of Moresby Island-population 500. The Careys' picturesque palisade, made of driftwood logs set upright, encloses a yard full of items gathered in beachcombing-including a whale skeleton weathering in the sun. "Where else could you let whale bones dry without neighbors' complaints?" Betty asked. Barely touched resources enrich the Char lottes. Muskeg bogs on Graham yield high grade sphagnum moss for gardeners in the United States. Iron ore and copper deposits on Moresby make Tasu a thriving settlement. In the forests, red cedar and giant Sitka spruce, some as much as 17 feet in diameter, fall to the logger's saw. Streams jump with trout and salmon; deer-descendants of Storm of sawdust swirls about a logger as he begins his cut on one of the great Sitka spruces of the Queen Charlotte Islands. For est products account for half of every dollar earned by the people of the province.