Eight thousand years ago – a millennia after the last ice age and long before the first Egyptian pyramids were erected – Canada’s First Nations shared this wild coastal region with eagles, black bears, orca whales and salmon. After a long period of cultural repression, timeless ancient traditions are again thriving as the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation preserves and celebrates their culture through art, dance, music, language and a sustainable day-to-day relationship with the natural world.
Alert Bay on Cormorant Island is internationally renowned for its storytelling, summertime dance performances and the potlatch treasures housed inside the must-see U’mista Cultural Centre. The world’s tallest totem pole stands vigil outside the ‘Namgis Big House. Take a canoe trip or enjoy a salmon barbeque with First Nations guides. And visit an oceanfront graveyard filled with colorful memorial poles (please view respectfully from the road only). Enjoy the colourful displays of traditional and contemporary artwork in many locations throughout the village – keep your eye out for a favourite piece to add to your personal collection.
Fort Rupert on the southern outskirts of Port Hardy is home to the Kwakiutl First Nation. This friendly enclave by the sea is known for its public galleries where internationally renowned carvers create magnificent art from chunks of timber. Authentic art pieces, gifts and prints can be purchased here.
Soak up the sights and experiences on the North Island, then use Port Hardy’s ferry terminal as the jumping off point for further First Nations adventure north on the BC mainland. Visit the villages of Bella Bella and Klemtu before reaching magical Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) from Prince Rupert.