A Haida custom is to place watchmen on the top of totem poles. These iconic figures can be seen throughout the Haida lands and represent sentinels who keep guard over the Haida people.
Since the 1980s, however, Haida Watchmen are real people who keep a lookout over old Haida villages and protect them from vandalism.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve’s cultural resource manager Barb Wilson says the Skidegate Band Council started the Watchmen program in the early 1980s because they wanted more people out on the land.
People had always been out on their territory, but around this time a lot of “pot hunting” was going on—people digging for artifacts and taking them without permission, she says. Some even cut pieces off monumental poles that had fallen. In fact, the Haida Gwaii Museum has a pole fragment on display that was recovered from a tourist’s yacht after a Haida noticed them at the dock in Prince Rupert.
The full story can be read here. The watchmen are beautiful works of art. We’re happy to have them as one of our chess pieces and as a keychain.
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