Since the last edition when you reported on the fire at the U’mista Cultural Centre (Thurs., July 25, Page 1, U’mista fire spares potlatch masks), the report from the fire inspector is that the fire started from the outside of the building and wasn’t a result of an electrical fire.
We were of course saddened by the damage done by what we thought was a fire started by an electrical fault.
We were even more saddened because someone would intentionally try to destroy the history of the Kwakwaka’wakw housed in the U’mista Cultural Centre.
Our parents and grandparents suffered through the Potlatch Prohibition when it was illegal to take part in any of our ceremonies.
This collection is a result of the confiscation of the masks and other treasures used in our ceremonies through an illegal agreement which our Chiefs were forced to sign saying that they would not Potlatch again until the law was changed.
If they did not sign, more of their people would be sent to jail.
As it was, more than 20 of our old people were sent to Okalla Prison Farm in Burnaby, B.C.
Some of the charges included dancing, distributing gifts and making speeches.
The arrest and trial of our people happened after Chief Dan Cranmer’s Potlatch at Village Island in 1921. The trials were held in Alert Bay in 1922 with the Indian Agent sitting as Judge.
We would be very grateful for any information leading to the apprehension of the person or persons responsible for this senseless act.
Chief Bill Cranmer