Haida Gwaii – Masset and raven story

“Long ago, near the beginning of the world, Gray Eagle was the guardian of the Sun, Moon and Stars, of fresh water, and of fire. Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept these things hidden. People lived in darkness, without fire and without fresh water.

Gray Eagle had a beautiful daughter, and Raven fell in love with her. In the beginning, Raven was a snow-white bird, and as such, he pleased Gray Eagle’s daughter. She invited him to her father’s longhouse.

When Raven saw the Sun, Moon and stars, and fresh water hanging on the sides of Eagle’s lodge, he knew what he should do. He watched for his chance to seize them when no one was looking. He stole all of them, and a brand of fire also, and flew out of the longhouse through the smoke hole. As soon as Raven got outside he hung the Sun up in the sky. It made so much light that he was able to fly far out to an island in the middle of the ocean. When the Sun set, he fastened the Moon up in the sky and hung the stars around in different places. By this new light he kept on flying, carrying with him the fresh water and the brand of fire he had stolen.

He flew back over the land. When he had reached the right place, he dropped all the water he had stolen. It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the fresh-water streams and lakes in the world. Then Raven flew on, holding the brand of fire in his bill. The smoke from the fire blew back over his white feathers and made them black. When his bill began to burn, he had to drop the firebrand. It struck rocks and hid itself within them. That is why, if you strike two stones together, sparks of fire will drop out.

Raven’s feathers never became white again after they were blackened by the smoke from the firebrand. That is why Raven is now a black bird.”


We went to Masset, the northernmost village of Graham Island on Haida Gwaii and stayed in under the grid cabin on South Beach. Cabins without electrical power and water pipes became popular among people willing to escape the luxuries of modern world. Well, almost, because village is just a 15-20 minutes away even from the most distant cabin and cell phone signal is available if you go to beach. I was warned that our cell phones might stop working on Haida Gwaii so I did some research and found that only 2 providers have reliable, although spotty signal on the islands. Not that we really needed cellphones, they were there just for emergency. But that’s not what I wanted to write about. The most beautiful part in the area are the endless sandy beaches, even longer than the ones on western Vancouver Island. Nature is wild and untamed there. Only a narrow logging type of road divides beaches from boggy rainforests. Once you are in forest, there is nothing for tens of kilometers toward south. Naikoon provincial park runs for roughly 70km from Rose Spit in the north to the village of Tlell in the south.

beautiful evening sky above South Beach

The most remarkable landmark is Taaw Tldáaw – Tow Hill, a 125m high, 2 million years old basalt rock. As with almost everything on Haida Gwaii, there is a story about Taaw Tldáaw and his elder brother:

Taaw and his elder brother lived at Juus káahlii  (Juskatla), they say. And their mother gave them young dogfish.

And then their mothere didn’t give Taaw any young dogfish. The two of them, so they say, were named “Taaw.”

And when he saw that he wasn’t getting any dogfish, he walked away in disgust.

And he started off, pulling himself along on his bum, and next he went down through Kumdis passage.

And from there he went down through gaw (Masset) Inlet. And when he got to Kayung, Raven ran out of the house talking angrily to him.

Then Raven stood upon a stone. And he broke the stone by jumping up and down.

That rock is called Hlgat’at’áas (“Stone broken by foot”) because Raven shattered it with his feet.

And Taaw went on. And he was going to stay at Tsaawan Kun (Chown Point).

And there he looked at himself. And he didn’t like it there.

And then he went away again. And then he arrived at Yaagan (Yakan).

And again, he didn’t like it there. And again he moved from there.

And then he sat for a long time at Hl’yaalang gandlee (Hiellen River).

And in this place he said, so they tell us “I’m good here. Here I will stay.”

They say some of the rocks at Chown Point were his doing. They say rocks at Yagan Point, that was also his doing.

Story teller – Isaac from Those-Born-at-Hlyaalan (1901)

The Feud Continued

Taaw’s elder brother sent a whale and a large bird against him. The whale slammed against Taaw, making rocks fall from his body. In anger, Taaw turned both the whale and the bird into stone. They still sit on the beach facing Taaw; the bird in front of the stone blowhole.

Taaw Tldáaw from Agate Beach

Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you about the raven 🙂

As the story tells, raven is responsible for urging first people to get out of their shell and populate the world:

According to Haida legend, the Raven found himself alone one day on Rose Spit beach, on Haida Gwaii. Suddenly, he saw an extraordinary clamshell at his feet, and protruding from it were a number of small creatures. The Raven coaxed them to leave the shell to join him in his wonderful world. Some were hesitant at first, but eventually, overcome by curiosity, they emerged from the partly open clamshell to become the first Haida.
…It wasn’t long before one, then another of the little shell brothers, timidly emerged. Some of them immediately scurried back when they saw the immensity of the sea and the sky and the overwhelming blackness of the Raven. But eventually curiosity overcame caution and all of them crept or scrambled out. Very strange creatures they were, two-legged like the Raven. There the resemblance ended. They had no glossy feathers, no thrusting beak, their skin was pale and they were naked except for their long, black hair on their round, flat-featured heads. Instead of strong wings they had stick-like appendages that waved and fluttered constantly. They were the original Haidas, the first humans.

Rose Spit is located north-east from Taaw Tldáaw, 10km away along the North beach. We planned to go there next day, after we went to Taaw Tldáaw but due to some unforeseen circumstances and some rain, we didn’t and I still regret that. Well, probably next time…

a view from Taaw Tldáaw

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Haida Gwaii – Kiid K’yaas (Golden Spruce Story)

“The world is as sharp as the edge of a knife” – Giid tll’juus – Balance (Haida Gwaii Guiding Principles)

For several days we stayed in Port Clements, a small former logging village located in Masset Inlet, about 60km north of Skidegate. Place became famous when, in January 1997, a forestry engineer Grant Hadwin, cut in the base of 50m tall golden spruce with his chainsaw, in a weird form of a protest against unsustainable logging practices on Haida Gwaii. Tree fell in a storm few days later. But the story goes much deeper into the Haida nation legends:

Kiid K’iiyas Golden Spruce Creation Story

A young man’s disrespect caused a terrible winter storm. The two survivors – a young boy and his chinaay (grandfather) left in search of a new home. His chinaay said to him “Don’t look back! If you look back, you will go into the next world. People will be able to stop and admire you, but they won’t be able to talk to you. When you get too old and fall down, you’ll grow up again. You’ll be standing there till the end of the world. Don’t look back”.

Having walked a long way, the boy looked back. Then his feet grew into the ground. His chinaay tried to help to no avail, and the boy urged his chinaay to go on without him. As he left, he said to the boy “It’s alright my son. Even the last generation will look at you and remember your story”.

The boy became Kiid K’iiyas – the Golden Spruce.

*Source: HaidaNation.ca, April 2016

Golden spruce is actually a sitka spruce with rare genetic mutation that generates golden yellow needles, instead of usual green. Golden spruce from story, sacred to Haida nation, lasted for 300 years near the bank of Yakoun river before it was downed. Grant Hadwin was arrested and charged but disappeared after being released on a bail. He was last seen paddling to Masset to stand a trial. He said he feared for his life, so instead of travelling by ferry or a plane, he decided to go there alone in his kayak. And Hecate sound in a winter is uncompromising. He disappeared, but a sense of grief and loss remained…

Golden Spruce trail is located about 4km from the centre of Port Clements. It is easy and very well maintained, about 400m long, ending at Yakoun River. We made some photographs, looked for birds and then discovered a small trail that goes further into the forest, following Yakoun river. We thought we might actually find a spot where a spruce have been.

calm waters of Yakoun river

It was a silent hike; forest is dense and not much of a sunlight can go through, except at occasional clearings. I was thinking about the story, how sad it was for grandfather to leave his grandson to his faith. But as with many Haida legends and myths, part of the story is meant to be educational, for future generations to learn about history and “right ways” of life.

Dark-eyed Junco watching us from dark forest shadow

After several kilometers, trail abruptly stopped at some clearing and we couldn’t find if it goes anywhere further. I looked around: on some magazine that I was reading the day before, it said that Golden Spruce was in a place often visited by families, where they could have enjoyed its shade on a hot summer days. We thought there would be a downed log – even it happened 25 years ago, there would still be a log, that was a 300 years old, 50m tall tree. It can’t just disappear. But there was nothing around there. So when we decided to return, I heard a child laughing somewhere in front of us. “Some hikers coming”, I told San. But after half an hour there was still no one on a trail. My thoughts drifted back toward a young kid who once became a tree…

there are some big old growth trees along Golden Spruce trail

Later, we found that Golden Spruce from the legend actually grew not too far from the end of maintained part of trail, its location even marked on a map at the trailhead. I should have looked closer.

approximate location where Golden Spruce once stood


Another interesting story is about white raven who once lived in Port Clements. Science says that white feathers and pale reddish eyes of that raven was a result of a rare genetic disorder.

white raven from Port Clements, photo by Port Clements Museum

Raven is the most powerful bird on Haida Gwaii; at the beginning of time, he found people hiding in a big clamshell; he called them to join him and that’s how first Haida came to world. Story says that it was white but… he stole Sun, Moon, stars, water and fire from a powerful chief; smoke from fire blew over his white feathers and made them black. That’s why all the ravens are black now…

The white raven from Port Clements was friendly bird, known to everyone, who became a mascot of a village. Just a few months after Golden Spruce was downed, it died when it was electrocuted while flying into a telephone wire two months before its 2nd birthday; it happened near Golden Spruce Hotel…

sunset in Masset Inlet

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Haida Gwaii – The Way In

“Once you’ve reached the edge of your world, ours begins.”

We planned this trip back in January 2020, but Covid crushed all our arrangements; Haida nation, who is governing the islands, decided to shut down access to all non-residents in an attempt to control the spread of the virus. We were disappointed, of course, but respected the decision that aimed to save lives in that fairly remote area, hoping that in nearby future we will be able to plan the trip again. And it happened this summer.

While researching the best – and cheapest – options to get to Haida Gwaii, we went through BC Ferries web site and various airlines’; islands are located on the north-west corner of British Columbia, far away from the Metro Vancouver, where we live. There are several options available: to fly from Vancouver to Sandspit, Prince Rupert or Terrace. But, beside the cost of the flight, there would be additional cost for renting a car and I couldn’t find any rent-a-car agency with available vehicles in Sandspit. And we would need to pay for ferry from Prince Rupert anyway. The other option was to go to Port Hardy on northern Vancouver island and get to ferry, but that would cost almost the same as flying – there are 3 ferries one way and the same in return, plus it would take 3 days anyway… So we decided to drive, as the cheapest option.

Distance from Vancouver to Prince Rupert is about 1800km; we decided to divide it into a 3 days trip, with stops in Vernon, Prince George and then catching an overnight ferry in Prince Rupert. Highway from Vancouver to Prince George is kind of easy and somewhat boring: wide lanes, many passing opportunities, not too much traffic; San and I were switching driving duties, making several stops to gas up and have something to eat. Anyway, first two sections of about 600km each were mainly uneventful, except when I encountered small flock of grouse in a middle of the highway lane, standing in shade of a big rock. Slamming the brakes was not an option because of a car driving too close behind so I kind of tried to swerve, but I still think I nicked one of them. I looked in the mirror and saw them all running away from the highway, the other car having it easier than I did.

It was mostly “uncharted” territory for me; I have never been anywhere northern than 100 Mile House and even that was during our short winter trip to Green Lake in Caribou. I found area around Williams Lake quite beautiful, farms and lakes like in Okanagan but much greener. And a lot of smaller campgrounds along the way to consider for future trips.

Last section, from Prince George to Prince Rupert, proved to be more difficult than expected; boring until Smithers and exhausting after it. Also, there are more wildlife – deer – along the way, prompting for more careful driving (at one point a truck who just passed me, found two deer in the middle of the lane, all while speeding at around 140km/h; it missed them but just for a fraction). Another beautiful section of highway is between Terrace and Prince Rupert, along Skeena river. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos, we were rushing to do some shopping before catching the ferry and that, with a long drive, left us little time to stop for sightseeing.

Ferry trip was uneventful, we slept through 7 hours long sail between mainland and Skidegate. Ferry arrives at 6 a.m. while nothing is open and since we didn’t have any coffee or breakfast on the boat, we had to wait one more hour till first restaurant opened.

But, finally, we were there.

in Daajing Giids (Queen Charlotte village)

quiet morning in Daajing Giids (Queen Charlotte village)

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Stormy anniversary in a stormy year

Few days ago San and I celebrated 10th anniversary – back in 2010 we were married in Tofino, on a stormy day, close to Cox Bay beach. It felt appropriate to come back to that area, in a year that feels as stormy as the one ten years ago.

As we expected, the weather was bad. Winters on west coast of Vancouver Island are a chain of storms with few beads of short sunny days in between. And so we went for a hike along the ocean.

storm near Ucluelet, BC

Weather Network predicted about 45 millimeters of rain today. I made as many photographs as I dared to, without trying to kill my camera. Our rain gear was soaking wet.

But this ragged coast is used to harsh weather. So is a wild life.

belted kingfisher

Back in our hotel room, we put our clothing to dry, had a quick lunch and sat in front of fire place with a glass of scotch.

Tomorrow we are going to Long Beach. Hope to see some big waves.

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A very good post by the friend of mine

Wise words. Excellent writing.

Light and Dark

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So, as I mentioned in a previous post, we spent a week in a cabin on Denman island, during Christmas break and, more important, our anniversary. On a day when we arrived, a storm started, with some strong winds and big waves. The wind knocked down some tree later so we were without power for about 16 hours. But that was not important. What amazed us was this:


female orca T037A


orca T037A2 with one of the younger brothers

pod of orcas hunting

pod of orcas hunting

sea lions looking at orcas

sea lions watching nearby orcas

sea lions resting

sea lions resting the next day

We sent these photographs to Ocean Wise organisation and Sandy got a reply today:

Hi Sandra,

I’ll be entering your sighting into our database, which now holds over 114,000 sightings. Sightings data is not only used within our own organization, but is also shared with other government agencies, universities and ENGOs for conservation-based research projects, critical habitat analysis, the establishment of marine protected areas, and more. Our sightings are analyzed to better understand the relative abundance, distribution, and habitat use of BC’s cetaceans. Having coastal citizens like you act as our eyes on the water is shedding a lot of light on various cetacean and sea turtle species in B.C. and adjacent waters. Much of this data would not be recorded without our valuable observers – we really appreciate your participation in the program.

It’s difficult to ID these whales without seeing the full saddle patch, but I’m pretty convinced that they are a family of transient (marine-mammal eating ecotype) killer whales known as the T037As. T037A is the lone female in the picture with the nick in her dorsal fin. She’s 25 years old and the mother to T037A1 (does not travel with the family anymore), T037A2 (born in 2009), T037A3 (born in 2012), and T037A4 (born in 2015). The family usually travels with the other members of the T037s, but will occasionally travel separately. We really appreciate the photos!

Warm regards,

Jessica Torode
Coordinator, BC Cetacean Sightings Network


We didn’t see them again but being transient orcas that is not unusual. Anyway, it was nice seeing them literally under our windows, and having them hunting is always an exciting event 🙂

Some more photos you can see here.

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It is our 8th year anniversary today. We arrived to Denman Island, just in time before the ferries were closed due to severe weather. We are staying in a nice cabin on an isolated part of the island. Sea lions and Orcas are hunting literally under our window, expect photographs later, probably in a week or so.
Sandy made a very nice dinner. It is called zarzuela, spicy Spanish dish made with mussels, clams, prawns and white fish.

All that with some nice 2014 Merlot and mango cake.
It is 7 pm now, a wind storm is still blasting outside but we expect somewhat nicer weather in a days to come 🙂

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This is just a short post about a recent big event in my life. Some of you know that I am practicing martial arts for more than 30 years now. Since 2003, I am practicing Nakamura Ryu Battodo, one of the youngest Japanese martial arts, founded by Nakamura Taizaburo sensei in 1953.

Every year, a competition is organized in Yokohama by International Battodo Federation (IBF). After nearly two years of preparation, I managed to go there again, with two of my students and take part in competition and grading. My students got a shodan level (1st DAN) and I received a godan (5th DAN).

This is a small thank you to all my teachers from Serbia and Japan who dedicated their time, patience and efforts to make this happen.

After grading - in Tsurumi Chugakko

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Perfect Day For Fishing

Perfect day for fishing
Eagle:”Mmmmm, a perfect day for fishing… Wait, who’s that?”

Otter:”Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now….”

Mink:”That’s all folks!”

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One of my friends from Serbia reminded me on her Facebook post about one sad anniversary: today is 19 years since NATO bombed Serbia over Kosovo. Sometime in May of 1999 she and her soon-to-be-husband made a 10 minutes video of how their friends, me among them, reacted to what was going on around us. Bombs dropping, people being killed.

Video is in Serbian so most of people who visit this blog won’t understand a word 🙂 But I can translate what I had said: One day, when all of this is over, our lives will be terribly boring… Scroll to 2:01. I am performing an Iaido kata and then I say the sentence that made me famous 😀 😛

I was asked once to explain what I meant with that. Of course, now after almost two decades, I can’t say that my life – and for that matter, the lives of many of other friends I have – is boring. Far from that. But it reflected a general feeling me and my friends had during bombing. We were angry, sad, annoyed, all at the same time. And we couldn’t change anything.  Years later, during one of my visits to Japan, one old member of martial arts styles that I am practicing, told me to come to Japan if ever again there is a war in my country. Not that I would do that, of course, but it was just a proof that I have friends among Japanese people and I was grateful for that. I had a chance to experience something terrible and lived to tell, so I am grateful for that, as well.

From Hagakure: “Master lttei said, ‘ ‘If one were to say what it is to do good, in a single word it would be to endure suffering. Not enduring is bad without exception.” “

Back then we were all a pawns in a much bigger game. And as every pawn, we were expendable. I was reading news when during 2015 ISIS destroyed ancient monuments, protected by UN laws. And the whole world condemned that. But when in 1999 and 2004 ethnic Albanians did the same to Christian monasteries in Kosovo – some of them as old as 500 years – most of the world applauded. Or, in best, turned the blind eye. The history of Serbian and Albanian enmity is not from yesterday, it lasts for centuries. But I am too lazy to go deeper into the topic at the moment. Everything is on line and in publications, if you are interested it is just a Google away.

These days I just don’t care as much anymore, beyond remembering. Did enemies win? Maybe. I like to think they didn’t. But nowadays, I like to do things that make me happy: martial arts, hiking, travelling, photographing… Life is short.

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