TELEGRAPH COVE—A mix of tourists and summer residents were invited to take part in the latest attraction at this historic seaside resort Saturday.
And local First Nations band members provided a sneak preview.
Sea Wolf Adventures, a cultural tour and water taxi service offered beginning this month by Mike Willie, held a grand opening ceremony Saturday evening featuring drumming, singing and dancing by a multi-band assemblage ranging from Alert Bay and Fort Rupert children to ‘Namgis hereditary chief William “Wa” Wasden, who led the drum circle and served as de facto master of ceremonies.
“There’s a place called Yyalis — Alert Bay — 10 minutes ride from here, so you do not have to go far to explore history and culture,” Willie told an audience arrayed along the end of the boardwalk near the Whale Interpretive Centre. “You don’t have to fly to Egypt or anything. There’s culture here thousands of years old and we will have a lot to offer.”
Sea Wolf Adventures, which has an office right on the boardwalk of this popular summer destination, offers afternoon tours to both Alert Bay — featuring the U’Mista Cultural Centre — and the cultivated cedar gardens of Hanson Island. By morning, it provides water taxi service to Alert Bay to those who want to spend a half-day exploring Cormorant Island in unguided fashion.
Saturday’s grand opening featured a variety of historical Kwakwala’wakw dances and songs. Following speeches by Wasden and Willie, spectators were welcomed to take part in a social dance, and the vast majority jumped at the opportunity.
“There are no rules to how you have to dance,” Wasden told the crowd. “As long as you’re enjoying yourselves.”
Wasden introduced each dance by explaining the characters portrayed and the stories they represented. He also touched on the First Nations peoples’ ties to the region, sharing locations by their Kwak’wala names. Wasden also shared the darker period of Kwakwaka’wakw history, when the government outlawed the potlatch and confiscated historic masks and other items in the 1920s, and shared how his ancestors stood strong in the face of this act, going underground and risking jail to continue their tradition until the potlatch was restored and many of the potlatch items returned to the U’mista Cultural Centre.
The addition of Sea Wolf Adventures to Telegraph Cove’s attractions is the first specifically dedicated to First Nations cultural exploration and education.
“This will add not only to tourism and business on North Vancouver Island, but this is going to add to the experience of visitors by exposing them to the culture of people who have lived here for thousands of years,” said Gordie Graham, owner of the resort.
Willie, an educator at Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’wx School in Port Hardy, said his ultimate goal is to raise enough money to fund a language revitalization program.
“That’s the whole idea of this business,” he said. “I decided I had to think outside the box for a way to fund this kind of program.”
For information on the tours or water taxi service, call 250-928-WOLF or visit www.seawolfadventures.ca.