SG̱ang Gwaay

British Columbia

Date of Inscription: 1981

What was once a vigorous Haida community of 300 people is today a haunting assemblage of weathered and fragmented house frames and mortuary and memorial poles. By the 1880s, disease had decimated the population of Nan Sdins village on SG̱ang Gwaay, an island at the southern tip of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, and by the turn of the century only remnants of the houses and poles remained.

Justification of outstanding universal value

SG̱ang Gwaay station was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee under the following criterion:

Criterion (iii): SG̱ang Gwaay llnagaay (Nan Sdins), located on SG̱ang Gwaay (Anthony Island) in an archipelago off the west coast of British Columbia, bears unique testimony to the culture of the Haida. The art represented by the carved poles at SG̱ang Gwaay llnagaay (Nan Sdins) is recognized to be among the finest examples of its type in the world.

Full description

Fifteen poles were moved to museums in the 1930s and 1950s. More of the village has been taken by nature, consumed by age and the elements, and returned to the forest. What remains is unique in the world, a 19th-century Haida village where the ruins of 10 houses and 32 memorial or mortuary poles bespeak the power and artistry of a rich and flamboyant society.

The Haida have always thrived on the wealth of both the sea and the forest. Shellfish and salmon were staple foods. Giant Western red cedars were the raw material of ocean-going canoes, vast post and plank houses, and great poles bearing both symbols of family history and, holding inside, the bones of ancestors. The Haida lived on SG̱ang Gwaay for thousands of years (as two-metre-thick refuse heaps of shells attest). The remnants of the village represent an ongoing chapter in an epic story of human settlement and artistry.

More Information

Parks Canada:

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve of Canada and Haida Heritage Site

World Heritage Centre:

World Heritage - SG̱ang Gwaay

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