Haida-Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) were still relativelyuntouched by European exploration when, in the summer of 1878, a younggeologist name George Dawson arrived there on behalf of the GeologicalSurvey of Canada. Separated from the mainland by many kilometres ofwater, the islands had retained a distinct ecological and culturalenvionment that reflected millennia of isolation. They were, at thetime that Dawson visited them, home to many rare species of plants andanimals as well as to the unique culture of the Haida people.
One of the most remarkable scientists and explorers of his time,Dawson drew maps, collected fossil, plant and insect specimens, andinvestigated the ethnology of the Native people. His interest in Nativeculture is readily apparent in his personal reports and privatejournals, and he collected artifacts and took photographs which arewell known for their early depictions of Haida villages andarchitecture. Yet what is most amazing is that he accomplished all thisdespite being physically challenged by the debilitating effects of achildhood illness.
This edition of Dawson's 1878 exploration of the Queen CharlotteIslands includes a reprint of Dawson's report, On the HaidaIndians of the Queen Charlotte Islands, as well as numerousphotographs taken by Dawson during his explorations. The text of the1878 journal is meticulously annotated by editors Cole and Lockner, whoalso provide an informative introduction which includes biographical,scientific, and ethnological details.
It is a pleasure indeed to welcome this splendidly edited volume on George Dawson's 1878 survey of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Professors Cole and Lockner's short but highly informative introduction is complemented by almost forty pages of notes--bibliographical, biographical, and historical. Students, scholars, and the general public are in their debt for these fine contributions to the history of British Columbia.
Remarkable photographs of villages, poles, and canoes allow us to revert to 1878, if only to imagine what life was like in that time and place. Dawson's journal is meticulously edited and contains useful signposts for future scholars
Dawson appears here as an ethnographer par excellence. To the Charlottes represents the most detailed ethnographic account of Haida life available. Haida people come alive in day-to-day interaction with members of other cultures, especially the Tsimshian. Rich descriptions of the potlatch, medicine men, woven blankets, headdresses, tobacco, berries, and silver bracelets depict a lively community. To the Charlottes represents a solid and welcome resource for Haida scholarship.
George Dawson's 1878 Journal On the Haida Indians of the QueenCharlotte Islands
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