We visited the remains of Ninstints on Anthony Island, also called SGang Gwaay. It was during a week long kayaking trip and we paddled over to a small beach on the northern side of the island. There is a trail from there that leads you to the Watchmen building where you go to meet a guide who will bring you to see the poles. There are rules stating that only a certain number of people can be in the village where the poles are at one time and rules governing how many people can even be on the island at once. Of course there is also a rule not to touch the poles. I had a friend tell me "whatever you do, DO NOT TOUCH THE POLES" before we left for our trip. I did not ask him what happens if you do touch it but I pictured the ground opening up and swallowing me whole if I did.
There are different types of poles in the village. The first one we came to was a solitary mortuary pole for a man who was the last from his village to live. When someone of importance died, their body was placed in a box that would sit in a space at the top of the mortuary pole. The person was not immediately put into the box, but after decomposing over time the remains could be gathered and placed in the box. There were no remaining boxes on the poles when we visited but you could see where the boxes would go.
There were other poles that were also mortuary poles grouped together for important people in the tribe. The guide went over the different animals on the poles and their meanings. Further down were the poles that went in front of the long houses and the remains of the long houses. The guide told us that if any poles fall they will leave them fallen. The poles will then return to the earth as part of the cycle of life. This is a heritage side that is conserved but the poles will not be preserved so this is something that your grandchildren may never get to see. It is only here for a special moment in time.
The Walk Back
The walk back was a nice stroll through the typical lush landscape of Haida Gwaii. There were trees growing off of fallen trees, trees growing off of rocks, moss everywhere, and a nice healthy outdoor smell. I would be remiss to mention the composting outhouse for guests is the nicest outhouse I have ever seen. It has a window that overlooks the water and I seriously could have lived fine with this as mine at home. This is possibly my first and hopefully last review of an outhouse, but if you see it you will understand.
Poles on Google Maps