Facts about the Haida Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and
interesting information about the Haida Native
American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions
did the Haida tribe live, what clothes did they wear
food did they eat? Discover what happened to the
Haida tribe with facts about their history.
Facts about the Haida Native Indian
people were organized into settlements and
communities, rather than tribes. Haida society
had three grades consisting of aristocrats,
commoners, and slaves. Children born to slaves
were also considered as slaves. The nobles
proudly wore tattoos emblazoned on their chest,
back, arms and legs with pictures of totem
animals and family crests. One of the most
common traditions of the Haida Tribe were the
Potlatch Ceremonies which enabled the host
to acquire or maintain prestige within their
community. The villages of these tribes were
almost always on the seashore and their houses
were generally in one long line, all facing the
sea. The beach in front of the Haida village
would be covered with canoes dragged up on the
sand. To keep warm in their damp climate, the
Haida people oiled their bodies and sprinkled
themselves with mica or red ochre.
Haida were one of the Northwest Indian tribes
Totem poles were carved with animals that
symbolized their guardian spirits who watched
over the family, clan, or tribe. The mythical
thunderbird is usually featured at the top of
top of totem poles. Legend tells that this
mighty bird captured Whale in its talons in
exchange for a prestigious position on totem
poles. The names of the other tribes who made
Totem Poles included the
Where did the Haida tribe live?
The Haida are people of the Northwest Coast cultural group. The location of the
tribal homelands are shown on the map. The main
territory of the Haida tribe is the archipelago
of Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte
Islands) in northern British Columbia. Haida
Gwaii means "Islands of the People". The
geography of the region in which they lived
dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Haida
Land: Tall dense forests, oceans, mountains
Climate: The climate was very warm summers and
cold, rain drenched winters
Animals: The animals included Mountain
goats and sheep, deer, moose, fox, mink, beaver, bear
Fish: Salmon, halibut, eulachon
(candlefish), herring and shellfish. Sea animals included seals,
sea otters and whales
Natural Resources: Red cedar trees, bulbs,
wapato (Indian Potato)
greens, seeds and berries, forests, mountains,
rivers and the bounty of the Pacific Ocean
What did the Haida live in?
The Haida tribe lived in plank houses built from the red cedar trees that
were so abundant in their location. The
plankhouses were built over a pit and were
almost square, measuring perhaps 40 or 50 feet
on a side. There were no
windows in the Haida plank houses but there were roof
slots that let fresh air in, and smoke from cooking
fires out. Many
of the plank houses were adorned
with totem poles and paintings that illustrated
the dwellers clan, history or mythology.
picture shows the back of a Haida plank house
depicting the legendary the thunderbird and the
killer whale, reflecting aspects of the mythology of
the Haida people (see the beliefs of the
What language did the Haida tribe speak?
The people of the tribe spoke the Haida
Language, called "X̲aayda Kil."
Haida were expert wood carvers and various
items were decorated with Haida art. These
included fabulous masks, totem poles, welcome
poles and house
frontal poles with entrance through a gaping
What transportation did the Haida use?
The Haida canoes were "dugouts" of
single tree trunks. The logs were cut in summer
time and fire was used to char the wood to be
cut away. After it had been partly cut out
inside it was stretched or shaped by steaming
with water and hot stones, and then putting in
stretchers. The ornate bow and stern pieces were
carved and added separately. Sometimes single-log dugout canoes were
large enough to carry from 30 to 60 people. The Haida
dugout canoes were often carved and painted at
the ends. The paddles used in driving these
canoes were slender and long-bladed, often
painted with designs. The lightweight canoe was
perfect for travel along fast streams and
shallow waters and were sturdy enough for the
rough waters of the bays and the Pacific Ocean.
What food did the Haida tribe eat?
The food that the Haida tribe ate included
their staple diet of fish supplemented by wapato (Indian Potato)
greens, seeds and berries. The women also
pressed the rich oil from the eulachon
(candlefish) and used large amounts of this oil
as a dip for their food.
What weapons did the Haida tribe use?
The weapons used by the Haida included
bows and arrows, clubs, blowguns and spears. The
also used shields made from the hide of the
moose and wore wood armor used as a form of
defensive clothing called a clamon which was
like a breastplate made from hardened moose hide
and cedar bark and was designed to protect the
wearer from arrow fire.
What clothes did the Haida tribe wear?
The clothes worn by the Haida were very similar
to those worn by the
Chinook Tribe -
please refer to this article for comprehensive
details. The women wore a type of kilt, or
apron, of bark fringe across the front of the
thighs and wore decorated bands around their
ankles. The 'Chilkat' blanket was used on
ceremonial occasions with shirt and leggings.
The blanket was woven of mountain goat wool in
bold colors and dramatic designs. During special
ceremonies and rituals the Haida chiefs wore an
elaborate head covering made of carved wood
trimmed with shell and ermine.
What was the religion and beliefs of the
Haida believed in
such as Nankil'slas, a raven spirit. The Haida believed that the Earth World was flat and
has a circular out-line, and above it is a solid
sky like a great bowl and the Sky Country. The
sky rises and falls regularly, and so the clouds
strike against the mountains and make a noise.
In the Sky Country, the greatest power is held
by Power-of-the-Shining-Heavens who gives power
to all things. The clouds are his blankets.
Thunderclouds are the "dressing up" of the
Thunderbird which produces a very loud noise by
rustling his feathers.
legend of the
Thunderbird features in many legends and
myths of Native Indian Tribes. The Haida tribe
brought these mythical creatures to life
depicting them on their totem poles and in their
paintings. The thunderbird is the symbol of
thunder, lightening and storms which are created
when the thunderbird flies. The thunderbird is
depicted as a large raptor-like bird usually
with curling horns, a long beak and a
featherless head. Sheet lightning is believed to
flash from its eyes when it blinks, and
lightning bolts are made by the glowing snakes
or serpents that follow it. The thunderbird is
depicted in masks as many-colored, with two
curling horns and teeth within its beak.
Totem Pole Thunderbird
Haida story about the Thunderbird: Why
lightning strikes the trees
Thunderbird was angry with people and tried to
drown the whole world, but he could not make the
water rise high enough, so some of the people
escaped. Then Thunderbird shot arrows at them.
He really did hurt many, but all the people ran
away and hid in a cave. Then Turtle came out. He
shouted out to Thunderbird, "You cannot kill
people. Your arrows fly wild. Shoot at the trees
and rocks; perhaps you can hit them." Turtle
mocked Thunderbird. Thunderbird said, "Oh, yes,
I do strike people. I have killed many of them!"
Turtle said at once, "Well, then, prove it by
killing me." So he drew his shell down tight and
moved about very carelessly, not hiding at all,
while Thunder shot many arrows at him. They only
glanced off his thick shell. Then Thunderbird
believed that he really could not hit people, so
now he shoots his arrows at trees and rocks. But
if people stand under a tree in a storm, it is
likely that Thunderbird will hit them.