Visiting the U’mista Cultural Center on a misty day

Alert Bay’s harbor and central area on a rainy afternoon at low tide

Rain fell off and on for the entire day (Wednesday, May 11), and Walt and I walked about a mile to the U’mista Cultural Center in the chilly mid-morning mist. You can read about the Center and its collection of potlatch ceremonial masks and other items on their website (https://www.umista.ca/pages/collection-history). Reading their materials on the Canadian Residential Schools (out of some 150,000 First Nations’ children who were wrenched from their parents and forced to attend, at least 6,000, and probably many more, died from disease, neglect, and abuse of every kind; St. Michael’s Residential School once stood on the grounds that the Center now occupies) and on the smallpox epidemic that killed most of the Pacific Northwest coastal First Nations’ peoples between Puget Sound and Southeast Alaska in the space of a few months in 1862 (20,000 died in British Columbia), when those deaths COULD have been prevented (White settlers were vaccinated and quarantined) but were allowed to occur among Indigenous people, was freshly angering and heart-crushing for me, though the information was not new ! Do visit If you are able–I think that seeing and learning about the coastal First Nations’ art, culture, and history in this setting will be an unforgettable experience for you!

Walt and I spent several hours looking at all of the U’mista Cultural Center’s displays, watching their video on the potlatch, and enjoying their excellent gift shop, and Walt did a goodly amount of reading and looking at and buying books related to his research on “the reconciliation of peoples.” After our walk back to Braesail,

As I walked back to the boat, I saw the B.C. ferry that transports passengers to Port McNeill on Vancouver Island and to the Finnish village of Sointula on nearby Malcolm Island arriving in Alert Bay. Can you see, slightly to the right of center, the spindly tree sprout at the top of the lone piling? A sign of life and hope!

I spent most of the afternoon doing two-weeks-worth of laundry in the harbour’s office building and dealing with email. It’s been a somber day, weather-wise and in my heart, as I knew it would be. My eyes have been just as misty as the mountains across the water.

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