Sherri Cook from the Huu-ay-aht First Nation brings in some of the cultural treasures returned to the west coast First Nation by the Royal BC Museum during a repatriation ceremony on Saturday

Huu-ay-aht welcome cultural treasures

The Alberni Athletic Hall was packed on Saturday as the Huu-ay-aht First Nation celebrated the return of historic items.



Historic treasures were reclaimed by the Huu-ay-aht First Nation from the Royal BC Museum at a repatriation ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Alberni Athletic Hall.

More than 100 years has passed since some of the objects left Huu-ay-aht’s territory.

An initial physical and legal transfer from the Royal BC Museum took place on Friday, Nov. 18 as part of the historic Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement, completed in 2011 with the governments of British Columbia and Canada.

The significance, to Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr., of having his ancestors’ artwork returned is in many respects beyond description.

“When you look at our motto—ancient spirit, modern mind—we’re bringing back the ancient spirits of our people.

“We’re bringing back artwork that was done by our ancestors,” he said.

“It’s an incredible feeling to have your history come back here… to have those artworks come back.”

Objects include a wooden ceremonial screen; two Thunderbird masks and a single collection of 37 small carvings of birds; five objects associated with whaling and whaling rituals (including a whaler’s cape or charm, head band, rattle, charm and whaling float) and eight basketry objects.

The items will be taken to the Nation’s traditional territory for permanent public display at the Huu-ay-aht Government Office in Anacla, near Bamfield.

“It will be a good thing for tourism and a chance to see the history of Huu-ay-aht and some of the things that are a hundred years old,” Dennis said.

The return of the objects is important to Huu-ay-aht elder Marjorie White, who said the treasures will help the nation regain their identity.

“I think it’s very emotional in that the artifacts have been gone from our nation for so long and of course losing our artifacts, it kind of loses our identity as well,” White said.

Most of the returned items were previously on display at the RBCM in Victoria, including the ceremonial screen which was historically used to record by the Huu-ay-aht people.

“This was a very creative and important community, still is, and today we’re returning the most spectacular, the most significant of all those objects,” said CEO Prof. Jack Lohman of the Royal BC Museum.

The screen, Lohman said, is equivalent to a Michelangelo in his culture.

After the unveiling of the ceremonial screen, John Rustad, minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, said during a speech that returning these objects is a major step for the Huu-ay-aht people.

“There have been many chapters in Canadian history that quite frankly we can be ashamed of. We’re trying to set a new path and walk a new journey together,” Rustad said.

“That is recognizing the past, recognizing the future and finding that path together.”

Just Posted

Solda’s Family Restaurant celebrates 50 years in Port Alberni

Restaurant is currently up for sale to “the right buyer”

Cherry Creek Waterworks District imposes water restrictions

Stage 1 water restrictions now in effect

Paint your toe for Pride in Port Alberni

Alberni couple launches campaign to show support for the LGBTQ community

Two men arrested for breaking into vehicles in Port Alberni

RCMP still searching for property owners

Alberni drag racers petition for return to the airport

AVDRA hosted their annual Thunder in the Valley drag racing event for 15 years at the airport

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Ginger Goodwin’s Cumberland cemetery grave desecrated

Just days before the Miners Memorial weekend, Ginger Goodwin’s grave has been… Continue reading

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

Most Read