Along the Johnstone Strait

Sep 26, 2019 - National Geographic Venture

The day dawned like any other day traveling the Johnstone Strait - clear, crisp, and beautiful, and like any day on National Geographic Venture it proceeded to get better and better. Breakfast found us at Alert Bay British Columbia getting off the ship for photo sessions at the local cemetery with its totems and other wood sculptures. We learned that each sculpture is a memorial to an individual that is buried there, and the figures are representative of that individual’s life, family and accomplishments. We then hiked or rode to the U’Mista Cultural Center where we were given a tour of the masks and regalia that the Canadian Government had confiscated in 1911 and watched a short film of Kwakwakawakw history and events leading up to the repatriation of the objects. We saw a great deal of artwork, met an artist, and had a pleasant time overall.

Someone noticed smoke rising on the next street and explored to find a very nice man smoking salmon, so we all went over and had him explain the process that he was using. He split the salmon in half starting at the backbone and leaving the belly meat intact so that the whole fish was in one piece with no back and rib bones. He then used two bamboo skewers to spread the meat and hung it by the tail so it would dry evenly. He smokes them for three days then cans them in mason jars.

We then proceeded to the Big House, which is indeed very big. We were entertained by drumming, dancing, and singing mostly by children who are being trained in the essential dances and songs needed to maintain the culture of these people. We were also treated to an opportunity to dance with them and discovered that Lindblad people are very good dancers! After dancing we had a very traditional dinner of salmon fixed three different ways, halibut, potato salad, bannock (fry bread), and dessert. I heard no complaints!

We cast off about 4:30 and headed down Johnstone Strait only to encounter killer whales, a couple of humpback whales, and a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins that surfed our bow wave for nearly half an hour. I would say a very good day on National Geographic Venture.

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About the Author

Owen Walker

Cultural Specialist

Owen B Walker was born in Moab, Utah and raised in very rural North Idaho. He graduated high school in Palmer, Alaska, where Northwest Native Art first stirred his soul. After achieving a degree in Sociology/Anthropology from Western Washington University, Owen focused on pre-historic peoples and places of the Pacific Northwest.  This interest and his 40 plus years of living and working in the rural Pacific Northwest awakened a spiritual connection, which he chooses to express thru Northwest Coast Native Art. 

About the Photographer

Max Seigal

Max Seigal

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Max Seigal grew up in beautiful Boulder, Colorado, and spent his early years working at his parent’s veterinary clinic, which sparked his love for animals. At a young age, Max fell in love with conservation and travel. He studied abroad in both Costa Rica and the Bahamas during high school, and went on to graduate summa cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University with degrees in environmental science, zoology, and economics.

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