Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, formerly a thriving fishing village on the BC coast, is the oldest community on northern Vancouver Island. Heritage buildings and old village houses on the waterfront still speak of the early pioneer days, where a fish saltery was located in 1870. The waterfront boardwalks, ferry dock and marinas bustle with life, but most vivid today is the living culture of the ‘Namgis First Nation of the Kwakwaka’wakw.
Alert Bay is internationally renowned as a centre for First Nation culture
The vibrant blending of First Nation and pioneer cultures is a remarkable example of cultures living side by side in harmony, set in an unparalleled Northern Pacific wilderness environment.
The village’s elegant and acclaimed U’mista Cultural Centre, incorporated in 1974, is Canada’s longest-running First Nations museum and cultural centre. U’mista showcases the famed Potlatch Collection of ceremonial regalia which was taken by Canadian authorities in 1922 during the potlatch ban era and finally returned in 1980.
A themed walking tour stretches across the island and includes a seaside stand of memorial poles and the magnificent traditional Big House. Stops along the way include the Alert Bay Library-Museum (with 6,500 historic photographs dating back to the mid 1800’s), main street gift shops featuring First Nations arts and crafts, and the world’s tallest totem pole. Traditional dance performances by the T’sasala Cultural Group are held in July and August in the Namgis Big House.
Alert Bay has much to offer the outdoor enthusiast. Cormorant Island is one of the stops and departure points for kayak tours, whale watching and fishing in Knight Inlet, Kingcome Inlet and the Broughton Archipelago. The island is a haven for birds, bird watchers, photo buffs and hikers.. along the beaches, boardwalks, forest trails, the village and the ecological park.