K'uuna (Skedans)

Cartouche by Bill Reid

The Haida name for this village is K’uuna (Village at the Edge). The village had several other names as well, including Huadji-lanas (“Grizzly Bear Town”) and Skedans. The name Skedans, as with that of many other Haida villages, is a corruption by the early fur traders of the name of the head chief, Gida’nsta, which means “From His Daughter”, a title of respect used by children when addressing a person of high rank.
 
The village faces south onto Skedans Bay. It is located on a small peninsula which ends in a high rocky prominence. A fort on this prominence was called Xanaqadas TalkaiXaxing, and it was to here that villagers would retreat if under attack. Xanaqadas refers to carved mortuary slabs such as those erected in front of mortuary houses. At the opposite end of the peninsula is a high rocky bluff filled with caves that were undoubtedly used as burial chambers.
 
John Work, who completed a census for the Hudson’s Bay Company, listed thirty houses and 738 inhabitants. In 1899, anthropologist J. Swanton’s informants recalled twenty-seven houses. There is physical evidence, on the ground and in photographs, of twenty-six houses, the number shown on the accompanying map (See Monumental Art of K'unna).
 
There are fifty-six pieces of monumental sculpture recorded at Skedans, including twenty-two frontal poles, eighteen single mortuary poles, three double-mortuaries, five memorial poles, and five mortuary figures. Of these, at least ten pieces are preserved in museum collections; about the same number survive in varying states of deterioration at the village.
 
K'uuna was abandoned only a few years after surveyor G.M. Dawson’s visit in 1878, at which time most of the houses appear to have been habitable.

Photograph by Emily Carr, ca. 1902. RBCM.

Textual Information for this page: G.F MacDonald, 1983; Parks Canada, K'uuna Llnagaay Page; J. Swanton, 1909.

Cartouche Artwork: Bill Reid