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Alaska Log #3

Fish Egg Inlet, B.C.
May 31, 1999

(Click on each photo to see it full size)

After a couple of long days motoring up the Straits of Georgia and Johnstone, we docked in Port McNeill. The Cruiser Rumor Mill announced that the Namgis tribe (the main Southern Kwakiutl group) was to dedicate its new longhouse with a big potlatch. Caught the early ferry to Alert Bay, just in time to see a dozen cedar dugout canoes arrive on the beach.

Kwakiutl nobles dedicating new longhouse at Alert Bay, BC (97K)Each canoe came from a different tribe in the region, and the paddlers sang their distinctive songs as they approached the beach. Each was greeted formally by the Namgis chiefs (or so they told us; Kwakiutl is not among our language skills) in full regalia. The colors were wonderful. Tribal members, on shore and in the canoes, were dressed in masks, robes, Chilkat blankets, button blankets, basket hats, and all the objects you see in museums, except this event was entirely for the members' own enjoyment, not for tourists. We whites were made entirely welcome, but there were only a hundred or so of us, among maybe 3,000 tribal members. No admission charged, all were welcome, and the highly organized Namgis fed lunch to all of us.

Then there was a tribe-by-tribe parade up to the longhouse, and the dedication, with songs, dances and speeches. All was in Kwakiutl except the speech by the Premier of B.C. (politicians never miss a chance). The longhouse is a gorgeous cedar building of huge logs and carved totempoles, with a traditional dirt floor and a fire pit in the middle. (Full sprinkler system, spotlights, and kitchen, too.) This is one place where NW tribal language and culture are clearly vibrant and on the rise. This was also a good opportunity to add a couple of carved cedar Raven masks to our collection for the boat.

We've gone almost 500 miles so far, and are now officially into the Serious Boonies. After a long day thrashing into a 20-25 knot NW wind, we're taking a day off here in Joe's Bay, Fish Egg Inlet. Our principal neighbors are two seals, a weasel, three seagulls, and a few jellyfish. There were rumors of a loon, but the seals thought it would bring down the tone of the cove. This is a good day to put out the crab and prawn pots.

Warm regards from Raven . . . Jan & Signe

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