Kiidk’yaas, also known as the Golden Spruce, was an ancient Spruce tree that grew on a riverbank in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. The only one of its kind, the Golden Spruce got its name from the golden colouring that ran throughout, caused by a genetic mutation. As with most things ancient and one of a kind, this tree held its weight in stories and traditions that reach back for generations.
Mythology is a deep part of Haida culture — lessons and legends are passed down from elders to youth and across generational lines. The mythology of Kiidk’yaas all started with a little boy who disrespected nature. A single act against nature performed by the little boy caused an awful storm to plague his village. As the villagers ran from the storm, the boy’s Grandfather warned him to not look back, but of course, the little boy disobeyed and was instantly turned into the Golden Spruce. For 300 years, the Golden Spruce stood in that exact location, almost as if frozen in time.
300 years later, in 1997, the Golden Spruce was felled. A violent act of eco-terrorism or a misdirected attempt at protest, we don’t know. Regardless, the felling of the Golden Spruce was a tragedy that struck the local Haida community, one that was devastatingly symbolic for the treatment of nature in the years to come.
While the remains of the original Golden Spruce in Haida Gwaii are no more, its legacy continues. At the time of the felling in 1977, a handful of botanists from UBC were wise enough to take parts of the tree and created saplings, of which only one remains today. This sapling lives at the UBC Botanical Garden in memory of the original Golden Spruce tree, which you can read more about here.
Once the dust settles from a tragedy, there’s often a lesson left behind in its rubble, and the legend of the Golden Spruce is no exception. We share this story not to shame, but to inspire motivation for change. We can always leave things better than how we found them, and it’s time for us to start now.
This story reminds us why we plant. Every item, ten trees planted, lasting change created for generations to come.