The Legend of the Golden Spruce (6 photos)

Category: Nature, PEGI 0+
27 May 2024

Trees do not have the gift of speech and cannot tell us about the events they have witnessed. The history of this giant is known, and it is very fascinating and sometimes sad.

This revered tree was cut down in an act of eco-terrorism, leaving behind a legacy of myth and perhaps more.

Yukon River

The waters of the Yukon River in the region of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) flow between the northern coast of British Columbia and the southern coast of Alaska. Along the banks of the river, a gradually thinning old forest is living out its last years. It was once the home of the magnificent Sitka spruce. The Haida Indians respectfully called it Kiidk'yaas, which means "Ancient Tree".

Kiidk'yaas in 1984

An exceptional genetic mutation caused it to produce wonderful golden needles. It seemed that when the sun's rays hit them, they began to glow from within with their own magical light. For centuries, the legend of this tree has remained a sacred part of the Haida heritage.

By tragic accident, on January 20, 1997, an unemployed forestry engineer named Grant Hadwin decided to destroy this amazing tree. The man used a chainsaw to cut through its trunk to the core. So the spruce began to weaken and lost the ability to withstand strong winds.

After this unseemly act, Grant sent a letter of explanation to various organizations, including Greenpeace. And he sent an appeal to the Haida people. The eco-terrorist tried to explain his act by declaring it forced because he was driven by the anger and rage he felt towards the authorities. And he destroyed the tree without much joy or desire.

Just a few days later, gusts of wind felled the great tree. The locals were overcome with grief and guilt for not being able to provide protection to the ancient giant. People held memorial services. They grieved so much as if they had lost a loved one who united them all.


Almost immediately Hadwin was arrested. He was charged, ordered to appear in court and released on bail. He could have easily arrived at the hearing by ferry from his island. But Hadwin loved active recreation and said that he could easily kayak almost 100 kilometers along the treacherous Hecate Strait. He was last seen kayaking north towards Alaska. He never showed up for trial.

In June 1997, the wreckage of his boat was discovered. No one knows for sure whether this was an attempt to escape, or whether he actually planned to come to court and face punishment. But the locals were inclined to think that this was Mother Nature herself taking revenge on the one who destroyed her special child. Of course, it cannot be ruled out that he faked his own death and got lost in the Canadian wilderness. However, no one ever saw any trace of Hadwin again.

Golden spruce seedling

Even before his death, cuttings of the Golden Spruce were grafted onto ordinary Sitka spruces and produced seedlings. But one, sent to the Haida people to replace Kiidk'yaas, died before he even reached the ground. The wood left over from the dead tree was used to make a guitar, which became a symbol of Canadian history. But some seedlings survived. Including one planted in 2001 in Port Clements as a symbol of a new beginning.

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