Nations Tour Operators in British Columbia |
poles are wonderful examples of aboriginal art - the ancient practice of totem
carving has been handed down through generations as a way of preserving the history
of local native heritage as well as honouring tribal rituals and sacred spirits
Ageing Totem Pole
at the abandoned Native Village of Ninstints on Anthony Island in the Queen Charlotte
are many ways to experience the rich culture and native heritage of British Columbia's
most fascinating people. There are annual powwows and a multitude of First Nations
cultural journeys in every corner of the province.
The aboriginal peoples of B.C. have maintained their diverse cultures by breathing
life into ancient traditions and customs and welcome all of us to experience it.
For your own exploration of some of the best totem poles and aboriginal art in
British Columbia here are a few areas worth visiting.
and the Fraser Valley
In the heart of Vancouver,
at Stanley Park, a collection of Kwakiutl and Haida
totem poles represents styles from a few of the northwest Pacific coast native
Museum of Anthropology at the University of
British Columbia, in Vancouver, holds an impressive collection of Pacific Northwest
aboriginal artifacts, including a definitive collection of west coast totem poles.
Suspension Bridge and Park, in North
Vancouver, offers a thrilling adventure 70 m (230 feet) above the Capilano
River. The park features colourful totem poles beautifully maintained in their
original condition. In summer watch First Nations artists at work in the longhouse
The Xa:ytem Longhouse, in Mission,
is a Historic Site and the first native spiritual site in Canada to be recognized
by both Provincial and Federal governments. Carbon-dated at between 5,000 and
9,000 years old, the centrepiece of the ancient village site is an enormous boulder
dubbed Xa:ytem, meaning 'the transformed one.' The Sto:lo Nation has recently
erected a longhouse at the site where, between June to September, visitors can
learn more about traditional First Nations' culture and history. Each year in
July, the Mission Powwow, which represents a celebration of the survival and adaptation
of native culture, draws drummers, singers and dancers to a three-day festival.
Outsiders may respectfully attend.
of Prince George along Highway 16 is
the Kitwanga Fort National Historic Site.
This fort, known on maps and signs as Battle Hill, was constructed on top of a
glacial mound overlooking the river. The most famous warrior to occupy this fort
was a man known as Nekt. His descendants continue to live in the native villages
of the area.
Historical Village and Museum in Hazelton
at the small village of Kitwancool to see what are reputed to be the oldest
and finest examples of totem poles. The three poles mounted together directly
in front of the Gitanyow Band Council office are among the most intricately designed
ones of the whole group and demonstrate that the carving tradition here is stronger
a side trip to the 'Ksan Historical Village and Museum in Hazelton.
The museum in one of the long houses honours the Gitksan ancestors, who were graced
with such abundance that they had time to beautify the items they carved for everyday
use. Seven decorated tribal houses fronted with several totems stand silently
on the banks of the Skeena and Bulkley rivers.
Board a BC Ferry in
Prince Rupert and cross the Hecate Strait
to the breathtaking islands of Haida Gwaii,
formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands. They lie on the edge of the province's
collective memory like a dream scarce remembered; mythical and elusive, full of
meaning and beauty, yet incomprehensible to the waking mind. Many visitors come
to the islands to see the abandoned villages on Moresby Island, accessible only
by boat. Anthony Island, home of the old Haida village of Ninstints, is located
within the boundaries of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve,
and is a World Heritage Site.
Close your eyes
and try to picture life as it might have been at the Native Village of Ninstints
on Anthony Island in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands)
Return to Prince Rupert and visit the Museum of Northern British Columbia,
which houses an exceptional collection of Tsimshian artifacts. Tsimshian people
continue to live in the area of Prince Rupert and on hundreds of offshore islands.
BC Ferries connects the community of Prince Rupert with Port
Hardy, at the northeastern end of Vancouver Island. The magnificent
15 hour cruise down the Inside Passage leads through majestic fjords and a maze
of narrow channels. Snow and ice coat the peaks of the mountains, and their shoulders
plunge to the tideline. So rugged is most of this coast that if you were exploring
here by kayak, you'd be challenged to find a welcoming landing site. Keep your
camera handy - passengers should keep their eyes peeled for a whale or dolphin
in Queen Charlotte Sound. With luck you might even see a white-coated Kermode
bear on Princess Royal Island's lengthy shoreline.
Island and the Gulf Islands
Alert Bay: The U'mista Cultural Centre
at Alert Bay houses one of the finest collections of historical artifacts and
elaborately carved masks depicting the Potlatch Ceremony of the Kwakwaka'wakw
people. Alert Bay lies cradled in the arms of Cormorant Island, easily accessible
by a scenic ferry ride from Port McNeill
on Vancouver Island.
Dominion Government outlawed the ceremony of the Potlatch in 1884 and authorities
began to seize ceremonial regalia, including masks, rattles, robes and coppers.
These ceremonies, which mark important occasions such as births, marriages, deaths
or the transfer of names, were forced underground following this ruling. After
more than 65 years, the confiscated items were returned from museums and private
collections throughout North America.
Located on the northern end of Cormorant Island, on the outskirts of the Nimpkish
Reserve at Alert Bay, stands the world's tallest totem pole at a height of 52.7
metres (173 feet) - the totem is comprised of two parts. Unlike most totem poles,
which are specific to a particular family, the thirteen figures depicted on this
pole represent many of the tribes of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation. A collection of
memorial poles may be viewed from the roadway at the Namgis Burial Grounds at
Highway 19 south to Campbell River. The
rich native heritage of Campbell River is proudly displayed in the Campbell River
Museum, which features a fine display of contemporary native masks and ceremonial
items. Totem poles can be viewed at various sites throughout Campbell River: Tyee
Plaza Shopping Centre, Foreshore Park, Coast Discovery Inn and Discovery Harbour
Island: A ten-minute ferry ride from Campbell River is well worth a visit.
The Nuyumbalees Cultural Center (formerly Kwagiulth Museum) at Cape Mudge, on
Quadra Island, displays an impressive collection of masks, potlatch regalia, rattles,
whistles and other ceremonial objects associated with winter dances. These are
some of the items that have filtered back from private collections over the years,
after the Government of Canada first outlawed the ceremony in the early part of
the 20th century.
The Eagle Aerie Gallery located in Tofino displays interior totem poles and works
of art by renowned artist Roy Vickers.
Native history and culture are apparent throughout Duncan, the "City of Totems."
A short stroll south from the museum, there are 41 intriguing totem poles to see
on the self-guided walking tour - just follow the yellow footprints on Duncan's
sidewalks, which provide a path through the sites - and the fascinating world
of totem poles. The Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference
Centre, in downtown Duncan, recreates the history and traditions of the coastal
people in its buildings, displays and excellent presentations. Under the roof
of a large carving shed, totem poles take shape; visitors may view work in progress.
Royal British Columbia Museum located in the
inner harbour area of Victoria, presents
a premier collection of native artifacts. Outside the museum, protected from the
elements, stand some of the oldest totem poles and greet figures ever collected
poles carved in the styles of aboriginal people throughout British Columbia can
be seen in Thunderbird Park, adjacent to the Royal British Columbia Museum.
In 1956, renowned Kwakwaka'wakw
artist Mungo Martin and his team raised the world's tallest free-standing totem
pole - at 38.8 metre (128 foot) located in Beacon Hill
Sechelt: Twelve Coast Salish
totems look out over Trail Bay, at Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast. These totem
poles recount the history of the Sechelt Nation, the first band in Canada to achieve
Nations Tour Operators in British Columbia