Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada
This tiny Namgis First Nations community on Cormorant Island welcomes its few visitors with rare insights into the region’s aboriginal cultures. Aside from the town, the rest of the island comprises two Indian Reserves. Totem poles can be viewed from the road at the island Burial Grounds, and the town boasts the world’s tallest totem. In the early 20th century, the Canadian government attempted to quash the traditional potlatch wealth distribution rituals of the First Nations people by confiscating the masks, baskets, copper plates and other regalia that were used in the ceremonies. After persistent negotiations, the Namgis have had their artifacts restored, and these rarities are displayed at the U’mista Cultural Centre. A traditional Namgis Big House is also located at Alert Bay, and traditional rituals are sometimes performed there. In the nearby forest, it is possible to view old-growth cedar trees which have been uniquely scarred by generations of Namgis artisans stripping their bark for use in creating clothing, baskets and for other traditional uses.