The Narwhal: Haida Gwaii’s kelp forests disappeared. Here’s how they’re being brought back to life

Dinners in Roberta Olson’s restaurant begin with a taste of k’aaw.

The dried herring roe on kelp is a traditional food for the Haida people, an Indigenous nation that has called Canada’s Haida Gwaii (Islands of the People) archipelago home for at least 12,000 years. As the roe crunches between your molars, the flavour and sensations combine in a wholly unfamiliar way; imagine chewing pop rocks that taste like the sea.

The restaurant, known as Keenawaii’s Kitchen (in reference to Olson’s Haida name), is run out of the living room of her home, its furniture rearranged to accommodate groups of 20 or so hungry patrons. Surrounded by traditional Haida art, facing windows that boast nearly 180-degree views of the Hecate Strait from the town of Skidegate, diners feast on a hearty chowder made from halibut, along with bites of fresh and dried salmon, clams, and herring. For dessert, wild berry pie is accompanied by nettle tea.

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