If you’re planning a trip to Haida Gwaii, consider spending a day with Dick Bellis. This 76-year-old self-described BSer is about as entertaining as a tour guide can get. I recently arranged for him to shepherd my travelling partner (the Octogenarian Mountain Goat – a.k.a. Dad) and me to Rennell Sound on the rugged west coast of Graham Island. Genetically half-Haida/half-Welsh, Dick is all Haida in outlook. Skil Q’uas (Dick’s Haida name) belongs to the Ravens, one of the Middle Town People, from Masset. He now lives in Skidegate.
Although he spent his working life in the forestry industry, Dick is harshly critical of former logging practices that ruined spawning streams and pillaged the land. But this experience makes him an amazing guide when it comes to identifying tree and other plant species and understanding the forest.
“I’ll tell you a story,” said Dick. “I’ve got a story for everything.”
And he has.
The scenery on this trip was lovely. We poked around in a trio of caves, collected shells on the beach (where Dick also showed us how to make halibut fishing tackle with a stick and some kelp), and stood on the most westerly point in Canada that you can reach by road. But this was all just background for Dick’s stories.
For lunch he produced a picnic of “ghow” – dried herring eggs on laminaria kelp – salty, crunchy, chewy and slightly fishy; “jilgii” – dried, smoked, wafer-thin slices of salmon that were extremely tough to bite and chew but worth the effort; and a stupendous salmon paré whipped up by his wife Alma that we spread on fried bread (bannock).
Getting in touch with Dick is a bit of a challenge, he’s not exactly a 21st century kinda guy. No website, no cell phone. You can only reach him by landline at 250-559-8067.