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Meet Morgan from the Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii.

For many kids, a boat ride, a trip in a float plane, or paddling your own kayak would be the stuff of vacations or extra-special summer camps. For 11-year-old Morgan, they are part of her daily life. To play with friends, buy candy, or rent a video, Morgan must persuade one of her parents to hop in the boat and take her from their home on little Robertson Island to much bigger Graham Island.

If she wants to shop at Toys R Us, see the latest movie, or swim in a pool, Morgan must persuade her father to fly her in one of his float planes over to Prince Rupert on British Columbia's mainland. That's where Morgan was born. Her Dad flew her home to the Queen Charlotte Islands when she was just one day old.

The Queen Charlotte Islands are a collection of about 150 islands (although there are 1884 if you count all the small bits) off the northwest coast of British Columbia. The biggest island is Graham Island. This is where Morgan goes to school. For her 11th birthday, Morgan got her own kayak. Before long, she hopes to use it to get to school.

Many things that Canadian city kids take for granted are not available on these islands. Morgan has never seen a Harry Potter movie at the theatre. She did finally see Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone last summer, by the time it was out on video, in the community hall in Queen Charlotte City on Graham Island. There is no point in Morgan dreaming of the day her parents will get her a cellphone -- they don't work in the islands.

Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii

The islands are known by both names. Haida Gwaii -- meaning "islands of the people" -- is the name used by the Haida. They were the first people to live on these islands and have been there for about 10 000 years. Captain George Dixon named the area The Queen Charlotte Islands in 1787, after his ship.

The Haida were a sea-going people, fishing in the ocean and sending trade or war parties along the mainland coasts. When Europeans came to the islands in the 1860s, they brought diseases with them, such as smallpox, which killed many of the Haida people.

Today, approximately 2000 Haida people still practice traditional customs and live off of the fish they catch daily. At school on the islands, kids start to learn the Haida language in kindergarten. They start French in Grade 8.

Get to Know Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii

Population: 5000 (Canada: 31 million)

Area

The 150 islands are 300 km long

Biggest Town

Queen Charlotte City -- not really a city -- about 1000 people live here

Aboriginal Peoples

The Haida

Time Zone

Pacific Standard Time -- that's three hours behind Eastern Standard Time in Ontario

Queen Charlotte/ Haida Gwaii is:

temperate rain forests

totem poles

black bears

salmon

logging

wilderness

ocean kayaking

Bill Reid (Haida sculptor)

World Heritage Site at Ninstints

Hunting for Food

Morgan may be able to water ski from her front yard, but she can't run down to the corner shop for milk and bread. What foods are available on Robertson Island? Wild huckleberries in the summer and eggs from the neighbour's chickens.

Much of the family's food comes from small stores across the water in Queen Charlotte City, which in turn has come from mainland B.C. This makes food, especially fresh produce, very expensive.

On the other hand, Morgan's parents do not have to buy meat and fish -- they catch it themselves. There are many deer on the island and Morgan's father and grandfather go hunting every autumn. The meat is then stored in a freezer along with the salmon they catch in summer.
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Publication:Kidsworld Magazine
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Words:627
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