A group of people who live in different parts of Vancouver Island came together for a visit to the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay. We did this in June, which is Indigenous People’s History Month.

The main challenge in organizing the trip was the expense of the ferry. Driving on the ferry is very expensive, but the U’mista Centre is not in easy walking distance of the ferry. I had several ideas of how to resolve this, but they were all too complicated — too much potential for things to go wrong!

I simplified the plan by asking participants to meet at the ferry in Port McNeill, and we would walk on together (walk-on fares being much less expensive). I suggested that If driving to Port McNeill was an obstacle, I could arrange a carpool.

Among particpants I invited, I contacted the Immigrant Welcome Centre for Port Hardy and Port McNeill, to see if any of their staff or clients could participate. Some clients were interested but ended up unable to attend. One staff member from the Immigrant Welcome Centre, who is new to the area herself, did participate.

After a few last-minute cancellations, seven people attended. We all met at the ferry in Port McNeill, then the U’mista Centre’s van and driver picked us up in Alert Bay. We had a tour of the Centre. The tour guide was a young woman from the Cranmer family, who work to preserve Kwakwaka’wakw language and culture in many different ways.

For some people in our group, it was their first visit to U’mista. Others had been there before, but the tour gave them a deeper understanding of the displays and their meanings. Everyone found the experience enriching.

After the tour, we had time to see more of the collection on our own, and to visit the beautiful gift shop. The driver brought us back to the ferry, and we had more opportunity to chat and socialize on the return trip.

We all had fun, learned a lot, and met more people from our communities. I also hope this was a small act of Reconciliation, part of our responsibility as non-Indigenous people living on Indigenous land. I’m very grateful to Neighbourhood Small Grants for giving us this opportunity!

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