________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 22 . . . . June 27, 2008


SGang Gwaay. (Wonders of Canada).

Annalise Bekkering.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2008.
24 pp., hardcover, $22.95.
ISBN 978-1-55388-385-2.

Subject Headings:
Nans Sdins National Historical Site (B.C.)-Juvenile literature.
Haida Indians-History-Juvenile literature.
Haida Indians-Social life and customs-Juvenile literature.
World Heritage areas-British Columbia-Ninstints-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Reece Steinberg.

** /4


When the Kunghit people left SGang Gwaay in the 1800s, they joined other Haida groups in villages such as Skidegate and Old Masset. Their customs and traditions became blended with these groups. Over time, the Haida population grew again. There are now more than 4000 Haida living mainly in British Columbia and Alaska. Many still live on Haida Gwaii and continue to hunt and fish as part of their lifestyle.


SGang Gwaay is a simple account of the small Haida Gwaii island of the same name. It would be useful for school children writing a report on the history or culture of the Haida nations, or on wildlife in the area. The book focuses on basic information about the island and its former people and on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in general.

     The book is a rather bland and uninspired list of facts. It mentions controversial subjects but, for the most part, glosses over details of their controversy and fails to treat them with sensitivity. The one instance at the back of the book where it does discuss an issue – whether or not the remaining totem poles on the island should be removed and put in museums, is a surprisingly offensive choice. The book admits that the majority of Haida peoples believe that the culturally significant poles should remain where they stand. That this is up for discussion is at best misguided and at worst encourages the colonialist attitude which modern books about First Nations generally attempt to strive against.

     SGang Gwaay's strong points help to balance out the serious issues in the book to a degree. Unlike some (particularly older) books on similar topics, SGang Gwaay treats Haida cultures as the continuing, evolving entities that they are, as opposed to something singular, stagnant and historical. It explores the artistry of past and present, as well as a creation story. This book includes both European and Haida place names for Haida Gwaii.

     Readers using this book for research will be pleased to find governmental and educational, non-commercial web addresses listed in relevant areas. A short glossary and index in the back will also be of use to young researchers. Attractive, full-colour photographs and maps will be a boon to readers requiring these for projects, and they add colour and visual interest to the book.

     Though this book neglects to treat some issues in a thoughtful or sensitive way, it does have merit, and it is a far cry from some books of the past on Native cultures. Its writing will probably not capture the interest of pleasure readers, but it provides the facts necessary for a school project, plus help with additional resources.

Recommended with reservations.

Reece Steinberg is a Canadian librarian and writer, currently in Berlin, Germany.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.