A Haida House


Created 07DEC95

To my knowledge, this is the only photograph of an occupied Haida house showing both an interior and exterior view. This house was located at the village of Massett, near the northerly end of the Queen Charlotte Islands.
This exterior view was photographed while standing near the beach and looking inland, roughly circa 1890. Note the large roof beams which supported wide split cedar roof planks to keep out the rain. The house pole at the front of the house is carved with the crests of the family and is of the more modern style, that is, without an old style entrance door passing through a hole in the pole. As was common at this time, European doors and windows are added to the traditional house plan. To the left of the photo you can see a canoe covered with wet mats to keep it from drying, a memorial totem pole, and a fish drying rack.
An inside view of the same house as above. The upper tier in the photo matches the elevation of the ground outside the house, and the lower tiers have been excavate down. Several related families would occupy a house like this, with the higher rank being located in the back furthest from front (and only) door. The fireplace, in the center had no chimney, with the smoke being allowed to escape through a crack in the roof made by pushing one of the roofing planks to the side. I presume that the bars hanging by chain above the fireplace were used to hang food drying racks each fall. Houses like this were typically one large room only. I've read that occasionally areas in the house were partitioned off by a screen for ceremony, most notably the high rank area opposite the front door. The chairs and tables are of European origin, as traditionally there was little furniture beyond sleeping mats, storage chests (one? visible on the upper tier) and setees.


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