On the islands of Haida Gwaii before the coming of the Europeans, lived the Haida people, estimated by some historians to have numbered at that time at least 10,000. This may easily be an exaggeration. Early traders, on the other hand, were inclined to compute the population from the numbers of canoes which came off to trade with the white visitors and in all probability under-estimated the total number of inhabitants. The general concensus of opinion to-day is that there may have been in the neighbourhood of 8,000 Haida’s at the time of the first visits of Europeans.
Haida Gwaii is an archipelago of about 150 islands and islets. The total length of land mass is about 156 miles, and the greatest width nearly 52 miles. Separating the archipelago of the islands from the mainland are Dixon Entrance to the north, with an average width of about 33 miles; to the east, Hecate Strait, with a width at the south end of about 88 miles, the north end is about 27 miles. The southern tip of Haida Gwaii is about 150 miles from the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
The discovery of Haida Gwaii as well as that of the entire North-west Coast of North America, was merely incidental by the Hudson Bay Company's pursuit of the lucrative fur-trade in the great North-west. The Hudson Bay Company moved their forts and trading posts ever farther westward across the continent of North America, they began to dream of a waterway to the Pacific. Such a route would relieve the long and expensive overland haul to either Hudson's Bay or Montreal. How the inland and marine fur trade finally met and merged at the mouth of the Columbia River is the background, not the actual substance, of the more recent history of the islands of Haida Gwaii.
The Haida people have lived in the archipelago of Haida Gwaii since the beginning of time, and knew of many trade routes, peoples and cultures, all around the pacific ring. Prior to 1774 the Haida have no written record of historical events. This book is about the recent written historical accounts since 1774. Awaahl gagwii - it happened a long time ago.
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