Taa Suu – Food Lake

PC: K̲ung Xaangajee.

Graham Richard

The K’aas ‘Laanas Spruce Pitch People lived along Daawxuusda the west coast of Haida Gwaii. These kayxal raven matrilineage descendants established villages from Kaysuun Llnagaay Kaisun to Taa Suu Tasu Sound. They built one of these villages, called Sing.ga Llnagaay Winter Village, on the shores of Sing.ga GawGa Lomgon Bay within Taa Suu. St’awaas XaaydaGaay Witch People joined K’aas ‘Laanas there to intermarry, and together they established Grease House. It is said that Haida potlatched the first kiida crest tattoo at Grease House in Taa Suu.

Beyond Taa Suu’s entrance westerly winds bring heavy swells from Tang.gwan the open ocean. These waves smash violently against jagged outcroppings and rocky cliffs that tower over Daawxuusda. Imbedded in the kilometre-high wall is a small puncture, a 500-metre narrows called Taa Suu K’yuuGa. Here, the waves abate and enter a network of protected inlets and bays, shrouded in the shadows of surrounding mountains.

Eight and half kilometres of the narrows’ coastline fall within Daawxuusda SGaagiidaay Kuuyada Daawxuusda Haida Heritage Site and Conservancy. The narrows are 121 metres deep and the inlet falls to 353 metres as it widens. Taa Suu then branches into four smaller inlets that together cover roughly 50 square kilometres.

In summer, ts’allang.nga Marbled murrelets nest in nearby old-growth forests and congregate at Taa Suu’s entrance, diving for food fish amongst many other seabirds. Hlk’yah Perergine falcons and Ts’aag Bald eagles circle close to mountain slopes, swooping and diving to snag the small birds.

In spring, sk’aagii chum, ts’iit’an pink, taay.yii coho, and taaxid sockeye return to several rich salmon streams that drain from surrounding mountains into Taa Suu. Haida fishers recall looking across Taa Suu to see inlets full of jumping salmon. Hundreds of k’aang and skul porpoises follow the fish, gathering at Taa Suu K’yuuGa alongside kun kaajii Gaajaawuu sperm whales. Taan Haida Gwaii black bear assemble along the shores of river mouths to feast on returning salmon.

Taa Suu supplements this abundance with xaaguu halibut, k’uust’an crab, Gaalahlyan abalone, k’iiwaay clams, guuding.ngaay Red sea urchin, Guuda gii Gayd prawns, taaxaw mussels, stan geoduck weighing up to four kilograms and hlk’wii rock scallops ‘the size of dinner plates’. In the spring, iinang Pacific herring arrive to spawn and produce a moderate amount of k’aaw Herring roe on kelp. Xuud Harbour seal guard the inlet entrance from their rookery at Taa Suu Gwaay.yaay Horne Island, and keep a sharp eye out for the transient sGaana orca that hunt them.

Taa Suu gained scientific notoriety after divers found a previously undescribed sea cucumber species there, dubbed Parastichopus leukothele.

All this natural ecological wealth provided kuuniisii ancestors with plentiful food and healthy forests that supported at least five major villages. With over 8,000 years of occupation, dozens of archeological sites fill Taa Suu’s shores. After 1862, Haida lineages living in Taa Suu gradually moved to HlGaagilda Skidegate. Haida continue to fish, hunt and harvest in the area while the ocean’s abundance also started to draw sport and commercial fishers.

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