Gilakas'la! This word of welcome and thanks is frequently heard from the 'Namgis peoples of Alert Bay.
Their home on Cormorant Island (known as 'Yalis) is the cultural arts and heritage centre of the Kwakwaka'wakw, a collection of First Nations bands inhabiting the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.
U'mista Cultural Centre
The U'mista Cultural Centre is a remarkable museum at the southwest waterfront end of Front Street that celebrates the enduring cultural traditions of the Kwakwaka'wakw. Of particular note is its collection of masks and regalia related to the potlatch, the once-banned ceremonial ritual that regulates all aspects of Kwakwaka'wakw social life.
Big House & World's Largest Totem
Overlooking horseshoe-shaped Alert Bay from an elevated plateau, the Big House (Gukwdzi) is the ceremonial meeting place of the 'Namgis.
1 Aboriginal Experiences in Alert Bay
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1 Front Street
Alert Bay, British Columbia
Potlatches were banned in Canada between 1885 & 1951. Since 1922, some of our most treasured masks & ceremonial objects had been in the hands of museums in Canada, England & the United States, taken away at a time of great sorrow when a law deemed the potlatch was illegal. After years of effort, many of the confiscated treasures were successfully repatriated to their rightful owners, the Kwakwaka'wakw, & are now housed carefully in the U'mista Cultural Centre, called' The Potlatch Collection'.
The U'mista Cultural Centre Gift Shop is internationally known for its wide selection of authentic Kwakwa_ka_'wakw fine art, crafts & souvenirs.