Calm waters and sunny tides welcomed National Geographic Sea Bird to Alert Bay. Eager to stretch our legs, we walked through the sleepy port town to the U’Mista Cultural Center for our interpretive tour of the impressive museum. Alert Bay is part of the traditional homelands of the Kwakwaka’wakw, which were once divided into seventeen different tribes throughout the region. During 1885-1951, potlatch was banned in Canada. Despite the outlaw, one was held in 1921, which resulted in a police raid and the aftermath of many participants facing fines or jail time. Additionally, over 600 regalia pieces were confiscated and distributed around the world.

After the ban was lifted, the Kwakwaka’wakw people fought to bring their sacred items home, resulting in the U’Mista Cultural Center. Visiting the impressive collection and learning about this complex history was truly an eye-opening and unique privilege.