The U'Mista Cultural Centre is the main attraction located in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. The centre is a First Nation museum and a special gathering place for ceremonial celebrations - like the potlatch. The goal of the centre is to remember, protect and preserve the history, traditions and culture of the Kwakwaka'waka First Nation people.
The First Nation people were at one time banned from speaking their language, honouring their traditions and having potlatch ceremonies. It was a time when the BC Government wanted to eradicate the Kwakwaka'waka First Nation's language and way of life.
In the early years the ceremonial garments and artifacts were removed from the village of Alert Bay without the consent of the First Nation people. The artifacts were passed around from museum to museum all around the world. It was not until 1980 when the U'Mista Cultural Centre opened it's doors that some of the original artifacts and objects were returned.
Today the U'Mista Cultural Centre is a collection of some of the traditional and cultural artifacts from the days of the potlatch. There is a large hall, a gift store and a potlatch building onsite. There are masks, coppers, tools, weapons and traditional clothing on display. The centre is a great way to learn about the First Nation way of life - past and present.
The centre also holds special events and traditional dance ceremonies. Before arriving in Alerta Bay, BC it is good idea to check the event schedule and just maybe, you can time it right so to attend a traditional dance and potlatch ceremony.
the meaning of U'mista follows the history of the early years when people were taken captive by raiding parties. When the people returned home by either paying a ransom or by a retaliatory raid it was called a "U'mista". The return of the ancient artifacts to the First Nation People is a version of " U'mista".
Travel Highway 19 to the community of Port McNeill located on the north end of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. In the community of Port McNeill on the waterfront is a ferry terminal transporting people and vehicles to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. From the ferry dock take a left and follow the main street to the U'Mista Cultural Centre.