September 25, 2017

Duchess' Bannock & Desserts in Alert Bay ~ fantastic!

Along the main drag, down from the ferry terminal, is a little spot that can't be missed on any trip to Alert Bay.

It's the Duchess' Bannock & Desserts place and it is amazing.

The Duchess is a real person and that's her name. Warm and friendly and creator of some of the finest bannock we've ever tasted.

Open everyday, except when Duchess decides to close of course, which happens in Alert Bay from time to time.

This place is a delight: homemade soups, amazing bannock dishes and .... a hot dog, with the necessary toppings, cooked within the bannock. While we didn't get to try this wonderful creation, all reports from the locals, would suggest this is something not to be missed. We did get to try the bannock and berries!

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

September 24, 2017

Totem Poles of Alert Bay

During our brief stay in Alert Bay we walked through the town, and around Cormorant Island. It's an easy walk and highly enjoyable. People are friendly and happy to share their stories and the stories of their community, and one of those stories is that of the totem poles of Alert Bay.

Totem poles are visual representations about the people who erect them, their ceremonial privileges and identity. The erection of a totem pole is usually celebrated with a potlatch.

In Alert Bay some totem poles are fairly new and others are very old. The Kwakwaka'wakw people believe that nothing lasts forever. When a totem pole is damaged, or falls to earth, it has served its purpose and it is time to let it go. Totem poles are not maintained nor re-painted. Often, recorded information about the totem pole is scant and only the pole's owner, and its carver, can truly describe the significance of the symbols.

The totem pole located near the traditional Big House is considered the world's tallest. Carved during the 1960s, it was raised in 1973. At the time it was an impressive 53 metres in height, but in November of 2007 the top of the totem pole fell to the ground during a Nimpkish wind. Apart from its height, it is unique in that unlike most totem poles, which are specific to a particular family, its figures represent some of of the tribes of the Kwakwaka'wakw.

The traditional burial grounds, and the current 'Namgis burial grounds, where many of the totem poles are located, are not open for tromping about. There's nothing to prevent people from wandering in, but respectfully, we are all asked to honour both the totem poles and the land. The totem poles are easily viewed from the roadside at both locations.

In the village cemetery, the combination of Christian and Indigenous symbols is, at first, confusing, and then... captivating.    

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

September 10, 2017

The NDP Federal Leadership Debate in Vancouver

Early this Sunday morning, we attended the Vancouver meeting of the NDP Socialist Caucus. It was a first for your faithful scribe. It proved to be an interesting meeting of fellow travellers, though G. G. Blynn, our publicist and crisis management consultant, expressed disappointment that we didn't address each other as comrades.

At the close of the meeting we marched down to the York Theatre on Commercial Drive for the final Leadership Debate for the national New Democratic Party. Well, it wasn't quite a march. Blynn wheeled themselves of course, and for the rest of us, if not a march, it was most decidedly: a brisk walk.

A few years ago The York was rescued from demolition and fully restored. Now this 100 year-old artifact from history is part of the The Cultch's group of venues. The York seats 370 and every seat was taken, and the nearby Wise Hall was commissioned and took another 250! The NDP isn't about to become an artifact from history.

An over-flow crowd of over 600.

Leadership hopeful Charlie Angus arrived early to do some hobnobbing with the crowd, though we didn't see him as he had advanced further down the line, a queue that went down the block and around the corner.

We did meet and greet Guy Caron and managed to impress him in both official languages.

Guy Caron & Libby Davies

Finally we entered the grand hall, and the show began.

Niki Ashton, your correspondent's first choice for leader, attended in a digital kind of fashion, on a screen. Niki is pregnant, expecting twins, and unable to travel by air,and the millisecond delay in the satellite transmission caused, to Jeem, an eerie Max Headroom kind of flashback.

In the lead-up to the actual debate, Charlie Angus entertained the assembled with several songs and a personable kind of humour that he wears extremely well, and while Jagmeet Singh, the most fashionably attired politician in Canada, might be funny, he was all-seriousness today.

Guy Caron was calm, comfortable and looking every bit the Quebecer he is, unlike Justin Trudeau who only pretends-to-be when it suits him.

In his closing remarks he said that when he began his leadership campaign the common remark was "Who is that guy?" but now it's more likely to be, "I like that Guy." 

After 90 minutes, the debate ended. Not boring. No, not boring. Last one left on-stage was Niki Ashton, which coincides with your reporter's unchanged ranking preference: Niki,then Guy.

Photos by Jeem. 
Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

September 07, 2017

Alert Bay, BC

Alert Bay is on Cormorant Island, which is 4.9 km in length, and 800 metres at its narrowest point. It's an easy walk-about.

The 'Namgis First Nation has the largest population on the island, with 750 people.  The Village of Alert Bay has a population of 440 people, and the remainder of the island's population, approximately 250, are of the Whe-la-la-u Area Council representing seven Kwakwaka'wakw Tribes.

Today, there is harmony on the island. The citizens who share Cormorant Island's compact area have developed a philosophy of neighbourliness, and in our brief time here we were impressed by the friendly and outgoing hospitality of the people.

In 1999,  and renewed in 2012, the Alert Bay Accord, between the Village and the 'Namgis First Nation, was the first agreement of its kind between a municipality and First Nations Band in Canada. It describes common goals and pledges mutual support in civic and cultural matters affecting both jurisdictions.

That mutually beneficial relationship has not always existed.

For thousands of years Cormorant Island, or Yalis, was populated by a great nation of seagoing people who called themselves the Kwakwaka’wakw. One of their most influential sub-groups lived along the rich valley of the river on Vancouver Island and these were the ‘Namgis.

Local history tells the story of strange looking men arriving in 1792 CE. The ship was Discovery and the captain's name was Vancouver. Everything changed.

This island, and the entire region, was rich in furs, salmon, coal, timber, gold and more. There was seemingly an unlimited abundance. The newcomers, took and took and took, and what seemed an inexhaustible resource was depleted.

This is a beautiful place. The people are wonderful. There is still fishing, and trapping, and much more. Though not in the same way as before the invasion.

During one of our walk-abouts, Jeem was invited to go fishing with a First Nations group and had to decline as we were leaving the same day. The invitation stands. And we hope to return.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

September 06, 2017

Arriving in Alert Bay & Pass'n Thyme

It was a generous two hour drive from Campbell River to Port McNeill. None of us had been north of Courtenay so after a slightly forgettable night in Campbell River, we drove up island and boarded a ferry to Alert Bay.

Our lawyer friend and colleague, BT Mendlebaum joined us, and our public relations and crisis management consultant, G. G. Blynn, came too.

Apparently "peeking" is forbidden on the ferry to Alert Bay

We were walk-on passengers as Cormorant Island is easily walked, or wheeled in the case of our friend Blynn.

Of course Jeem "peeked" and had to explain himself to the Chief Steward. And then our lawyer (disbarred), BT Mendelbaum, intervened and things went from bad to worse.

The Main Drag with BC Ferries on the right

Alert Bay is the main settlement and a population of about 1500. More than half the population are First Nations peoples, and this is traditional Kwakwaka'wakw territory.

Alert Bay reminded us of Dawson City, where we spent three winter months several years ago. The buildings, the colours, the rustic charm, remind us of a time long ago, yet very much of today.

We checked into the lovely Pass'n Thyme Inn, which is a brief walk from the ferry terminal, but then again, everything is a brief walk from the ferry terminal.

Pass'n Thyme Inn, as does most of the village, overlooks Broughton Strait and stunning views of Vancouver Island's beautiful mountain ranges.

Our room was around the back and up some stairs and not entirely accessible for Blynn who stayed in a room on the street level. With Mendlebaum. Our room was better than the website photos would suggest.

Pass'n Thyme Inn & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pass'n Thyme boasts a wonderful restaurant and at night it's especially busy with townsfolk and outsiders too. The cuisine is what one might expect, served with a dash of adventure. Come for the people; warm, friendly, inviting. Conversations abound. If someone is celebrating a birthday, you might even get a piece of cake.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.