Report on November Speaker: – Don Dempson,  “Haida Gwaii Adventures ”

Our speaker on November 3 was Don Dempson, speaking on our club’s recent Haida Gwaii Adventures.

In late-August and early-September 2023, 15 members of the NW Bay Probus Club travelled to Haida Gwaii via Port Hardy, Prince Rupert, Daajing Giids and Massett. The nine-day trip was planned by our own Don Dempson and managed by Mile Zero Tours. For many club members, the journey was the culmination of a lifelong dream to explore a remote, verdant corner of Canada. An opportunity to learn of a thriving culture from proud members of the Haida people.  

Don’s famous photography and storytelling was evident throughout the presentation. His pictures projected the haunting beauty of the inside passage. His words captured the wonderment of touring Prince Rupert, with its stunning Museum of Northern British Columbia ( and the historic North Pacific Cannery (

To view a selection of Don’s slides, click here.

But a special tone of reverence entered his voice when he spoke of Haida Gwaii. The totem poles and hand-carved, ocean-going dugout boats at the Haida Heritage Centre ( The impromptu diversions from the scheduled tour – first to meet with world-renowned carvers creating a massive totem pole; days later to talk with a famous wooden-ship builder and modeller.

Don captured the mystical beauty of ancient cedars shrouded by fog. The isolated stone beaches. The intense silence.

He closed his talk by describing a heart-warming experience on the last night of our travels. We had been invited to a potlach and dinner feast in a small village not far from Masset. We entered a beautiful longhouse and met a large number of teens, adults and elders – at least as many people as made up our group. That evening, there was singing. There were stories. After a dinner of indigenous food (it was delicious!), the teens and adults performed traditional dancing in vividly-coloured ceremonial dress. Members of the village – non-performers – came and went throughout the evening. One young child curled into her mother’s lap and soon fell asleep, oblivious to the drums and the chanting. We truly felt a part of the communal family that was this village.

It was the perfect way for Don to summarize a magical trip that lasted only nine days, yet left many with a changed view of our country – and our countrymen. If there was ever an example of how travel can broaden one’s perspective, this was it.

Report by Terry Kelly


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