U'mista Cultural Centre & Museum

1 Front St.
Alert Bay, BC V0N 1A0- Map It
(250) 974-5403

AAA Editor Notes

U'mista Cultural Centre & Museum is 2 km (1.2 mi.) w. of the ferry on Front St. The collection includes elaborately carved masks, traditional and historical carvings, woven cedar pieces, ceremonial regalia, paintings and other artifacts from Indian potlatches—the gift-giving ceremonies that mark such important occasions as birth, the naming of children, marriage, transferring rights and privileges and death. The U’mista’s Potlatch Collection tells the epic stories of resistance and resilience of the people who speak Kwak'wala, the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation of British Columbia; for generations they have been hosting potlatches, which continue to play a central and unifying role in community life. The potlatch was banned 1885-1951. The potlatch masks and other regalia in the Big House Gallery were surrendered to the police after an illegal potlatch in 1921. After the ban ended, the Kwakwaka'wakw negotiated for decades for the return of their sacred regalia that had ended up in museums and private collections, and most came back. The word u'mista is Kwak'wala and means, “the return of something important.” There are also films and small galleries with short-term exhibits. Guided tours are available.
$10; $9 (ages 65+ and students with ID); $7 (ages 8-18); $22 (family, two adults and four children ages 0-18).
Hours: Daily 9-5, Canada Day-Labour Day; Mon.-Sat. 9-5, Victoria Day-day before Canada Day; Tues.-Sat. 9-5, rest of year.