Alert Bay Tourist Attractions
Alert Bay, on the small, crescent-shaped Cormorant Island (45 minutes by ferry from Port McNeill via Sointula), is the site of one of the earliest Nimpkish Indian (Kwakiutl) coastal settlements. At the end of the 18th c. Indians were encouraged to move to the island to make up a workforce for salmon curing during the fishing season. This in turn led to the establishment of a mission station (Church Mission). Today the inhabitants of the delightful little fishing village and the Nimpkish Indian Reserve total about 1100. Twelve elaborately carved totem poles adorn the Indian cemetery while in nearby Fir St. a small local museum has been set up. A short distance along is the Village Office (information). Sunday services at the charming Anglican church (on the waterfront; built in 1879) are in Kwakiutl.
U'Mista Cultural Centre
As well as displays of the typical Indian masks and everyday artifacts the U'Mista Cultural Center, about 2 km (11/4 mi.) west of the ferry terminal, houses a collection of potlatch gifts confiscated in 1921 when potlatch ceremonies were banned. Guided tours of the center (Mon., Tues., Sat.) sometimes also feature dancing, films, or demonstrations of traditional food preparation (reservations required).Not far from the Center stand a traditional long-house (used as a community center) and the "world's tallest totem pole" 73 m (240 ft) high. Made by Indian craftsmen in 1971 it is carved from top to bottom.
Alert Bay Public Library and Museum
The Alert Bay Library and Museum hosts a collection of over 6,700 photographs of Alert Bay and area dating back to the mid 1800's. Paintings and carvings by such renowned Kwawaka'wakw artists as Charlie James, Henry Speck and Mungo Martin are also featured.
Alert Bay is home to what is perhaps the world's tallest totem pole, at 173 feet (two parts), carved by six Kwakwaka'wakw artists. The fourteen figures depicted on this pole represent some of the tribes of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation.