The Haida were feared on the coast because their enemies had no defense. They were protected from the other tribes because they on an island. This added to the violence of the Haida towards neighboring tribes.
The Haida went to war to get objects of wealth, like coppers and Chilkat blankets, because they did not have these on the islands. They also went for slaves, who helped them or were traded to other tribes.
Even a long time ago, the Haida had sea battles. They tied cedar bark ropes to heavy stone rings that were thrown to break enemy canoes. A stone weighing 18 to 23 kg (40 to 50 pounds) could shatter the side of a canoe and cause it to sink. Most tribes avoided sea battles with the Haida and tried to get them on shore for a easier fight. The Tsimshian developed a system to alert their villages as soon as the Haida invaders reached the mainland.


Instruments of war included bows and arrows, spears, daggers, clubs, fist clubs, canoe breakers, and atlatls.
an Atlatls (Aztec word) is a throwing board that extended the arm and added extra force to spears. Used throughout North and South America before the bow, it was kept on the Northwest Coast until the introduction of the gun.
Canoe Breakers
Large boulders, called canoe breakers, were thrown at canoes, then were picked out of the water for reuse by a rope run through a hole in them. Cedar canoes broke easily if large boulders were thrown at them with force. The enemies could also throw the boulders back, with crushing results.
Fist Clubs
Warriors concealed pointed stones in their fists for surprise attacks on their enemies.These were called fist clubs.
ivory war club with fish head design
ivory war club with fish head design

Hand-to-hand fighting used clubs. An old form that came from Siberia and Shang China was made from caribou antlers with stone tips. The animal and human figures that decorate clubs are better than any crests made later. Whalebone clubs, which were very large, were sometimes carved with designs and had shell in them.
Haida dagger and sheath
Haida dagger and sheath

Metal daggers were gotten from Siberian fur traders for hundreds of years. Some were double-bladed like the knives of Siberian bear hunters. A steel dagger was as valuable as a slave and was the best possession of a chief. The back of daggers had special decoration.
Bows and Arrows
a Haida bow and arrow
a Haida bow and arrow

Bows used in war were made of yew wood and decorated with the owner's crests. Ceremonial versions had abalone shell. War arrows were made of berry branches. Quivers were tubes of red cedar, often nicely decorated.
The Haida were divided into two social groups, or moieties called Raven and Eagle. The Raven moiety was divided into twenty-two families, and the Eagle moiety into into twenty-three; the family's were not grouped into clans. All villages contained several family's and most contained members of both moieties. Marriages had to take place between Eagles and Ravens, not between those who belonged to the same moiety, and children became members of the same moiety as their mother.
Haida society is based in a parental system of descent. Property, titles, names, crests, masks, performances, and even songs are among the Haidas’ parental privileges. These are passed from one generation to the next, through the mother’s side. Today, about forty family's are represented in Old Massett and Skidegate, the two major Haida communities on the islands.