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

Head on crash on Beaver Creek Road caused by possible impaired driver

Port Alberni driver scheduled to appear in court

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

Breakfast with Santa at McLean Mill

McLean Mill hosts first-ever Breakfast with Santa event

Coulson Aviation joins aerial fight against California fires

Vancouver Island-based Coulson sends two C-130 aircraft to fight fires

ADSS athletes step up for food drive

200 students, coaches and volunteers participate in annual athletic department food drive

B.C. overdose deaths surpass 1,200

96 people died of illicit drug overdoses in October

Crown appeals stay against Jamie Bacon in Surrey Six killings

B.C.’s prosecution service says judge’s decision reveals ‘errors of law’

Feds agree to give provinces 75 per cent of pot tax revenues

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the agreement today

Red Scorpion associates cuffed in drug-trafficking bust

Kamloops RCMP lay charges in connection to Red Scorpion drug trafficking ring

BC Ferries adds extra sailings for Christmas

More than 175 sailings are being added, including 130 between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island

Emergency response ‘well executed’ in B.C. carbon monoxide poisoning

Emergency Health Services talks about how first responders dealt with this ‘mass casualty event’

Body found after fire destroys multiple homes in Cumberland

The BC Coroners Service confirmed they were called to a fatal fire… Continue reading

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

Most Read