Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada

First Contact:

gather% / fish % / hunt %
fat % / protein % / carb%

A rough estimate to help us understand how carnivorous and how ketogenic these people were before being exposed to western civilization


Click this Slide deck Gallery to see high quality images of the tribe, daily life, diet, hunting and gathering or recipes

About the Tribe

For the Haida of the Queen Charlotte islands we have a statement by an early observer, Poole, quoted by Niblack, who writes :Some of these berries are collected and dried for winter's use, forming, with dried fish, the principal winter's supply. Poole, ( 1863) says of the Haida, that they often, through feasting or improvidence, eat up all the dried berries before spring, and "were it not for a few bulbs which they dig out of the soil in the early Spring-time, while awaiting the halibut season, numbers of Indians really would starve to death" (Niblack, 1890, pp. 276-77).


Importance of Animal Products

Importance of Plants

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Transition to Industrialized Food Products

Jan 1, 1763

West of the Revolution - An Uncommon History of 1776


Aleuts engage in warfare with the Russians but gradually lose - especially when the Russians destroy their boats - key to their hunting practices and "as indispensable as the plow and the horse for the farmer"

In 1763, four ships, the Zacharias and Elizabeth, the Holy Triniry, the

John, and the Adrian and Natalie, were visiting Umnak and Unalaska,

two of the larger islands of the Aleutian chain that Russians had dis-

covered only four years earlier. The captains collected iasak from local

Aleuts and demanded amanaty to ensure prompt payment and their own

safety. Then they divided their crews into hunting parties, as Aleuts

from Unalaska, Umnak, and neighboring islands had expected. The

Aleuts hatched a plan. As Solov'ev reported it, local residents would

"live in friendship at first," but when the Russians split up to hunt and

trade, they would take them by surprise. "Using this ruse," they hoped

to "kill all the Russians."

On Unalaska, the Aleuts ambushed the hunting parties from the

Zacharias and Elizabal. Four survivors, fleeing along the coust to their

vessel, spotted a locker washed ashore, then bits and pieces of the ship

itself, and finally the bodies of their mates, mangled and strewn about

the beach. Months later, they reached the Holy Trinity, where they

learned that, besides themselves, only three of their chirty-seven crew-

mates had survived."

The Holy Trinity had also come under attack and would soon be

destroyed. The skeleton crew, reduced in number and weakened by

scurvy, could not control the vessel, and in heavy winds it was driven

to Umnak and crushed on the rocky shore. Aleuts set upon fifty-four

castaways that same night. In July 1764, the twelve survivors of that

raid built a skin boat and rowed around the island, searching for the

John, the third of the four ships that had been trading in the islands.

In a steam bath constructed by the Russians, they found only a charred

frame and the garroted bodies of twenty countrymen. (No one from the

Job survived to recount its story, but in 1970, archaeologists discovered

the steam bath and the remains of the crew. The refugees from the

Zacharias and Elizabeth and the Holy Trinity were soon rescued by the

last surviving ship, the Adrian and Natalie. In September 1764, relief

arrived when Solovey anchored off Unalaska and learned of the plight

of his fellow promyshlenniki."

In retaliation, Solover killed at least seventy Aleuts in five differ-

ent engagements. "I preferred to talk them out of evil intentions so

that they could live in friendship with the Russian people," he main-

tained. But elderly promyshlenniki, interviewed in the early nine-

tenth century, would remember differently. On one occasion, Solovev,

after being provoked, killed one hundred Aleuts "on the spot." The 

bloodshed was "terrible," they recalled. On another, Solovev blew up

a fortified structure sheltering three hundred Aleuts and cut down

the survivors with guns and sabers. One trader stated that Solovev

had killed more than three thousand in all, perhaps an exaggera-

tion; another insisted that he had killed no more than two hundred.

Considering that Unalaska sheltered only a few thousand inhabitants,

even two hundred deaths would have represented a crushing blow to

the population."

Years later, Aleuts insisted that Solovief, above all others, was

responsible for their decline. The Russian captain had killed hundreds

or thousands, they said, and many others had fled at his approach. He

made a practice of destroying their haidarkat, as kayaks are known in

the Aleutians. The boats were essential for hunting, "as indispens-

able as the plow and the horse for the farmer," observed one Russian.

Many of the refugees died from starvation or exposure while laboring

to replace the skin-covered vessels, which took over a year to build."

On Unalaska and surrounding islands, Solover "shot all the men;

three residents recalled in 1789. He reportedly practiced a cruel experi-

ment: arranging the Aleuts in a line, he fired at the first to discover

how many people the bullet would pass through. On one occasion,

villagers sought refuge on Egg Island, a tiny outcropping with cliffs

four hundred feet high, lying in deep water just off the eastern edge

of Unalaska. Its rocky shoreline hindered Solov'ev's approach, but he

made landfall on the second attempt and killed the men, women, and

children who had gathered there. "The slaughter was so atrocious,"

Aleuts said, "that the sea around the islet, became bloody from those

who threw themselves or were thrown into it."6

In his journal, Solover remained largely silent about his thirty-five

months on Unalaska and the surrounding islands, where his crew

harvested the vast majority of the furs that would eventually be

sent on to Kyakhta. There was "nothing worthy of notice" in the journal,

declared the Russian Senate, which ordered future voyagers to keep bet-

ter records. Solov'ev's reticence may have been grounded in knowledge

of the fate of Ivan Bechevin, a wealthy Irkutsk merchant who was put

on trial in 1764 for the actions of his company. The official investigation

concluded that Bechevin's promyshlenniki-_who kidnapped, raped,

and murdered a number of Aleut women--committed "indescribable

abuses, ruin and murder upon the natives."3

Nonetheless, enough details exist to reveal that relations berween

Solover and the Aleuts rapidly deteriorated. Shortly after Solov'ev set

up camp on Unalaska, he sent out two hunting parties. A detachment

from the first became stranded in a cove surrounded by high cliffs.

The Aleuts who discovered the vulnerable men severed their arm and

leg tendons and then cut off their limbs and heads. Later, they boasted

to Solovev, "we are going to kill all of you just like we killed Russian

people before." Solov'ev ordered two Aleut captives stabbed to death."

The remainder of the first party went west, to hunt dt Umnak and

other western islands. It mer with success, according to Solov'ev. The

men lived peacefully with the islanders, who "voluntarily" gave them

hostages, traded with them, and paid dasak. "I was always happy wich

those foreigners and nothing bad happened while we stayed there,

" he stated. (lozemtry, meaning "foreigners," was the term Russians applied to

the native peoples of Siberia, as well as to the Aleuts.) Their acquiescence

to Solov'ev's presence may have been forged in the 1760s, when, accord-

ing to one report, promyshlenniki had virtually "exterminated" the

'"disobedient" populations on southern Umnak and its western islets.**