U'mista Cultural Centre, Alert Bay

#2 of 7 in Things to do in Alert Bay
History Museum · Historic Site
The U'mista Cultural Society was incorporated under the British Columbia Societies Act on March 22, 1974. Since that time, it has worked towards fulfilling the mandate to ensure the survival of all aspects of cultural heritage of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw. To facilitate the accomplishment of this mandate, the Board of Directors, composed of any person who is an individual, family of honorary member and can trace ancestry to a member of any tribe of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, is responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring all policy. The Executive Director, hired by the Board of Directors, is responsible for developing and implementing strategies that achieve the ends and aims that the Board has identified. This comprises day to day operations, management of the Centre, and yearly budget development.

The staff of the society consists of one full time and three part time positions, including the Executive Director, with contract staff being hired for specific tasks. The full time staff ensures that all programming is achieved and the facility is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (please contact us for extended summer hours; Victoria Day to Labour Day).

One of the objectives of the Society was the development of a facility to carry out the aims of the society. The present facility was opened in November of 1980. The focus of the permanent collection is the "Potlatch Collection". The other permanent exhibits on display include description of the traditional ethnobiology of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw and origin stories of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw villages, as well as, historical and contemporary Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw objects. Traveling exhibits of significance to the community are also displayed.

The Meaning of U'mista:

In earlier days, people were sometimes taken captive by raiding parties. When they returned to their homes, either through payment of ransom or by a raid, they were said to have u'mista. The return of our treasures from distant museums is a form of u'mista.
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U'mista Cultural Centre reviews

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229 reviews
  • Such an interesting place to learn about Alert Bay's Indigenous people. Attended the wonderful dancing show on the Saturday.  more »
  • A beautiful and humbling experience walking through and learning about Namgis history, resilience through colonization and occupation, and the beauty and richness of the community. admission was a...  more »
  • If you are interested in indigenous culture this is well worth a ferry trip to Alert Bay. The museum does an outstanding job on par with the Royal BC Museum in Victoria and the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. While I have seen masks many times, the way they displayed them here, with the background information, was the first time I got a real appreciation of how they could be used in ceremony and some of the stewardship involved in keeping the stories and traditions alive. A terrific job!
  • The tribe has collected all their ceremonial masks and some garb to put on display. There are some very old pieces from pre-European contact and more recently made. There is an excellent hands on room where can touch some items and wear masks. A couple of videos demonstrate how the costumes are used and you can even play a log from along with the music. A few pieces were missing while we there, replaced by a sign saying that the owner was currently using them in a dance. Very cool place.
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