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U'mista Cultural Society

U’mista operates a modern museum and cultural education facility in Alert Bay. Our operations include the museum, an extensive art gallery and gift shop, group tours, and presentations by dance troupes. Our facility hosts international scholars and supports researchers in a range of disciplines.

Some of our staff at the unveiling of a 127-year-old Sisiyu’ł house plank. Repatriated to us in 2020.

THE SOCIETY

The U’mista Cultural Society was incorporated under the British Columbia Societies Act on March 22, 1974. Since that time, it has worked towards fulfilling the mandate to ensure the survival of all aspects of the cultural heritage of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw. To facilitate the accomplishment of this mandate, the Board of Directors, composed of any person who is an individual, family of honorary member and can trace ancestry to a member of any tribe of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, is responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring all policy

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GUKWDZI Bighouse in Alert Bay

THE MEANING OF “U’MISTA”

The potlatch was banned in Canada between 1885 and 1951. The masks and other regalia that you see here were all confiscated after an illegal potlatch in 1921. After the ban was lifted, the Kwakwaka’wakw people fought for decades for the return of their sacred regalia that had ended up in museums and private collections around the world. Most of the regalia has come home and it is shown here at the U’mista Cultural Centre and at the Nuyumbalees Museum.

Click to visit our virtual museum!
Some of our Potlatch collection.

Due to the continued rise in cases, and new restrictions placed on our Centre by the Public Health Officer, we have had to close to the public until further notice. This is the second time this year we have had to do this. As an organization that depends primarily on tourism COVID has significantly impacted our revenues for this year. Which in turn impacts what we can do to continue our mission and the work we do for our community. You can help us during these difficult times by making a donation or purchasing a gift certificate.

Donations from individuals and corporations provide significant support to the U’mista Cultural Society and help make possible school programs, research, artifact preservation, exhibit revitalization and other public programs.

Gift certificates can be redeemed at our online store, where we are currently offering 40% off all Native art created by local artists in Y’alis (Alert Bay), with promo code 40THBLACKFRIDAY. Please help us honour the Native Arts community by buying authentic, locally-made artwork (carvings, jewelry, and crafts). Each sale allows U’mista to buy more art from these artists during the Winter.

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Eagle Plaque by Richard Glendale

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