Early this morning, National Geographic Sea Lion left her quiet anchorage and headed back to Alert Bay for a second day of activities. The ship returned to the government dock, and everything was made ready for us to exit and begin our morning activities. Transportation was waiting, and a small group headed out via van while the majority of the group walked the mile distance to the U’mista Cultural Center. Alert Bay is home to the Namgis people, a branch of the First Nation of the Kwakwaka’wakw people.
Once everyone arrived at the Cultural Center, we were divided into two groups. One group was taken on a tour through a well-known Potlatch Collection in the lower gallery of the U’mista. The second half of our group enjoyed a short video and time to see the rest of the museum and do some much-needed shopping! Soon, the groups switched. Once everyone had enough time in the Cultural Center, we gathered outside and once again either rode or walked the short distance to the Big House. This large building is the center for the living culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw people of Alert Bay. It is in this house that the fabric or cultural foundation of the Kwakwaka’wakw comes alive, is present, and is shared. We were very fortunate to be a part of that cultural sharing. Head speaker Andrea Cranmer came forward and spent time talking with our group as a whole and individually. She was informed that we were traveling with an elder who had had her 91st birthday, and Andrea immediately went and got our guest a chair so she could rest her back…and so it began. During the next hour, Andrea introduced elders who greeted us in Kwakwala. She brought out each young dancer, singer, and drummer, and she shared their history with her dance troupe and with the Big House and the Kwakwaka’wakw culture. The final dance was an invitation for us to all come out of our seats and join in the fun! With lots of laughter, we all got out on the dirt floor of the Big House and enjoyed dancing around the central fire.
At the end of cultural sharing, a request for a healing circle was made, which was honored by Namgis First Nations member, Andrea Cranmer. Calling us all together, she directed all energies towards the healing, support, and love we could extend to our friend in need. We gathered together in a circle, joined hands, and listened to the strong and kind guidance Andrea shared in words…as they had been taught to her. This added to our experience of learning about a new culture, and it was a refreshing way to see the world moving forward…
All too soon, we returned to the ship and watched with great warmth as we departed Alert Bay. We headed south on our journey, heading for the waters of the Southern Salish Sea and the United States.