Rendez-vous Canada 2014 Pre Fam Tour – Northern Vancouver Island
Teresa Ryder, Training and Development Specialist at AtBC, travelled with a group to Northern Vancouver Island as part of a Rendez-vous Canada Pre Fam tour. Teresa sent me some images and wrote up a blog post about her experiences.
I had the great pleasure of travelling to the Northern tip of Vancouver Island on Friday as part of a pre-Rendez-vous Canada Fam tour. Having grown up on the Island, it had been ages since I visited the North – such a refreshing perspective to experience the area through a tourism lens. I was welcomed by Joli White from Vancouver Island North and made the short trip from Port Hardy to the airport. The day began with a slight delay – the West Coast weather got the best of our inbound guests (rain and fog) keeping the Pacific Coastal plane grounded for about an hour. When the group arrived, we loaded onto a bus and made our way over to the Quatse Fish Hatchery to meet local operators for a networking event with several speedy introductions before our departure.
Next stop on the agenda was the quaint village of Telegraph Cove, a boardwalk town that looks like it is out of a movie set. We were greeted by Gordie, who provided us with a walking tour of the boardwalk, sharing some of the unique history of the town finishing with the Whaling Museum. Waiting for us at the end of the dock were Mike (Sea Wolf Adventures) and Fraser (Nimmo Bay), who escorted us across the inlet to Alert Bay. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Barb and Donna Cranmer who introduced all of us to the programming they offer at Culture Shock Interactive Gallery. Part of this experience was to prepare salmon for an open fire barbecue lunch – some of the fam tour group were even brave enough to jump in, get their hands dirty and prepare some salmon themselves! When lunch was finished, we were guided to the totem poles in the community grave yard where Mike and his co-worker K’odi shared the history of the totem poles, the significance to the people of Alert Bay and the poles’ meaning. From the totem poles, Mike and K’odi also shared their creation story and stories about first contact with European explorers.
Next stop was the old Residential School – a dilapidated old building with a daunting presence in Alert Bay. The school sits next to the U’mista Cultural Centre – and the proximity to each other does not go unnoticed. Mike and K’odi shared stories about their family’s experiences at the school and the current impact the Truth and Reconciliation attempts are having on the survivors of the school. Many operators asked questions about these experiences, what it means today, and how the community is moving forward from the experiences – truly a heartfelt and engaging discussion. Even more fitting – the current exhibit at U’mista shares photographs taken by a student from the Residential School – the old school building is plastered with larger than life prints. These pictures are combined with testimonials from survivors, Governors, and RCMP, giving a very real sense of what the Residential School era was like. The weight of these experiences could be felt around the group as everyone took in the magnitude of the stories being told.
We wrapped up our tour in the Potlatch Collection gallery at U’mista, where the community celebrates the repatriation of masks taken during the Potlatch ban. Mike and K’odi took us around the gallery, sharing protocols about their potlatches, how the masks came to the community and how potlatch is celebrated today. Before we left, everyone was invited to participate by playing the log drum as Mike, K’odi, and several of their cousins shared a song of thanks and celebration. The performance was a great way to bring all of us back together and leave with a sense of the cultural pride that is shared by the community of Alert Bay. We boarded the Sea Wolf and headed off towards Nimmo Bay – a luxury resort tucked away in a remote bay on the mainland of BC. En route to the resort, we caught a humpback whale breaching and playing in the rollers, a school of dolphins playing in our wake and a bear catching his evening meal on the beach. As we left the group in Nimmo Bay, I couldn’t help but smile – another great day, exploring the beautiful landscapes, experiencing the vibrant culture and taking in wildlife on BC’s West Coast. In a word? Perfection.