Port McNeill to Echo Bay

Totems at the waters' edge

Totems at the waters’ edge

0830 hrs June 24, 2015 at Port McNeill N 50º34.164′ W126º16.411′

Our plans for the day are to visit Alert Bay on Cormorant Island and then proceed across Blackfish Sound to the Broughtons.  In this blog post I will just deal with Alert Bay since it was such a rich experience.

Port McNeill to Alert Bay

Port McNeill to Alert Bay

Cormorant Island is about 6nm east of Port McNeill.  Access can be by ferry, float plane, or land plane. About 1500 persons live on the island and two thirds are members of the ‘Namgis First Nation living both on two First Nation Reserves and in Alert Bay village. The ‘Namgis are part of the Kwakiutl peoples in that they share the Kwak’wala language. This area is a land of spirits and magic.

Totems at the 'Namgis Burial Grounds

Totems at the ‘Namgis Burial Grounds

A chance to visit a living cultural center of a First Nations people known as the ‘Namgis who are part of the Kwakiutl.  They lived in bands in the areas from the Campbell River, to the south, to Queen Charlotte Sound in the north. There language Kwak’wala is still spoken in Alert Bay by adults. They have struggled for well over 100 years to maintain there heritage. Contact with early trappers, explorers and then governments have been harsh until recent times. This is the land of totem polls, carvings and great legends of thunderbirds, ravens, whales, bears. Many oral histories of ancestors transforming from thunderbirds to human and back to the great magical bird. A place alive with people caring for their heritage.

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Raven Transformation Mask

The Raven Transformation mask represents both supernatural beings and also the Raven transforming to a man and then back to a raven.  This is from the U’mista Museum on Echo Bay.  There is an incredibly rich display of many masks used at the potlatch.

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Sacred objects from the Umista museum

The Kwakiutl had a ceremony of dance, song, and gifts called “potlatch”. This was held in the long house of local chiefs and during the potlatch gifts were exchanged, hunting & fishing rights were granted. Until the late 1950s potlatches were banned both in Canada and the US. Gifts, masks, ceremonial costumes and masks were taken by the governments. Beginning in 1970 the Kwakiutl were able to regain their possessions and created the U’mista cultural museum on the island.  After being mesmerized by the stunning collection at the museum I returned to the lobby.

Totem at U'mista Museum

Totem at U’mista Museum

Its about a one mile walk back to the marina that is filled with carvings and art that face out toward the water.  Places to view, soak up & enjoy this stunning place.

Echo Bay Art

Echo Bay Art

As I walked along, it was a delight to soak up the spirit of this gem.

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Abandoned Fishing Structure

Continuing past far more art then I could soak into my brain and simply being overwhelmed by this place we all made our way back to the marina.

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Echo Bay Marina

Sadly, we made the boat ready to head over to the Broughtons.

4 Comments

  1. Lovely photos with descriptions of this incredible history. I hope to visit the area with you next summer and see the masks, totems and more, in person. Thank you for sharing.

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