The U’mista Cultural Centre, BC

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This First Nation cultural center acts a modern museum and a cultural education facility in Alert Bay, British Columbia.  The centre has been a focal point in the cultural resurgence and economic develop
ment for the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations. This is one of the longest-operating cultural facilities in BC and has become an education centre for both tourists and Kwakwaka’wakw members.

The centre was established by the U’mista Cultural Society, which was formed in 1974 under the British Columbia Societies Act. Their mandate is to ensure the survival of all aspects of the cultural heritage of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. 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 Kwakwaka’wakw, 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 society also provides tourism training programs for the Kwakwaka’wakw people to improve the quality of the tourism experiences the centre provides. The centre employs more than 35 Kwakwaka’wakw members.

Activities offered at the cultural center put culture first, empowers the community and build economic stability. Activities offered include:

  • Traditional dance performances three times a week
  • Guided museum tours
  • Opportunities to try local cuisines
  • Guided ethnobotany tours, walking trails and hiking
  • Paddling in a traditional cedar canoe, whale watching, sport fishing and diving
  • Kwakwaka’wakw arts and crafts are also available for purchase in the gift shop

The Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations have partnered with ethical local operators, creating the Wi’la’mola Accord. The ʼWiʼlaʼmola program is the business arm of the U’mista Cultural Society, a nonprofit organization with the mandate to represent the cultural values and property of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw First Nation. By bringing together the cultural expertise of the Kwakwaka’wakw people and the successful experience of business operators, high-quality cultural tourism products are being produced that can meet the social and economic objectives of the First Nations community, business operators, and visitors.

(Photos courtesy of U’mista Cultural Society and Aboriginal Tourism BC)