1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Queen Charlotte Islands

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QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS, a compact group lying off the northern part of the coast of British Columbia, and forming part of that province of Canada. Geologically the group is composed mainly of Triassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary strata, penetrated by intrusive rocks. It occupies a position similar to that held by Vancouver Island farther to the south, in regard to the mainland coast and its immediately adjacent islands, but is separated by a somewhat wider sea from the coast. It was named by Captain Dixon, who visited the islands in the “Queen Charlotte” in 1787. Although the islands promise to become important, because of their excellent harbours, the discovery of good seams of bituminous coal (beside the anthracite already known), their abundant timber of certain kinds and their prolific fisheries, but little settlement has taken place. The wonderfully productive halibut fisheries of Hecate Strait, which separates these islands from the mainland and its adjacent islands, have attracted the attention of fishing companies, and great quantities of this fish are taken regularly and shipped across the continent in cold storage. The natives, the Haida people, constitute with little doubt the finest race, and that most advanced in the arts, of the entire west coast of North America. They had developed in its highest degree the peculiar conventional art of the north-west coast Indians, which is found in decreasing importance among the Tsimshians on the west, the Tlingit on the north and the Kwakiutl and other tribes farther south on the Pacific coast. The carved totem posts of the Haida, standing in front of the heavily framed houses, or at a little distance from them, represent the coats of arms of the respective families of the tribes and generally exhibit designs treated in a bold and original manner, highly conventionalized but always recognizable in their purport by any one familiar with the distinctive marks of the animal forms portrayed. These primitive monuments are, however, rapidly falling to decay, and the people who erected them are becoming reduced in number and spirit. The native population of the islands is less than 700. (F. D. A.)