“When one’s heart is glad, it gives away gifts.” – Namgis Tribe

This morning we cruised the Johnstone Straight on our way to Alert Bay. From the bridge and bow, sheltered from the drizzle, we captured glimpses of new wildlife we had not yet seen. First, the elusive harbor porpoise slid by, followed by a traveling sea otter that was pirouetting as it passed a short channel. The next moment a pair of rhinoceros auklets flew by, and then two humpback whales crossed the bow.

Naturalist and Certified Photo Instructor Nathan Kelley, with the help of technology sourced from Happywhale, was able to identify one of the two whales. Using an image of the underside of its tail, we found we were watching Nova, a known male that travels from British Columbia to Hawaii. Nova is one of thousands of humpbacks we hope to see returning to the area for summer feeding.

Lunch concluded and we began docking at Alert Bay. While we were on land, our undersea team splashed in and found various critters below the dock.

This bay, settled in the northern region of the KwaKwaka’wakw Territory, is home to the Namgis tribe. The community shared their rich history with us via a walk along their local totem pole park and cultural center. We were next invited into the Namgis Big House, where their tribe hosts celebratory potlatches—traditional gatherings where gifts are shared among families and neighboring tribes. To share in this tradition, we attended and participated in a dance performance. Seeing their stories of living alongside nature, and their focus on growth and community told from the perspective of their youth and elders, was moving for all. The ceremony ended with our guests dancing alongside our hosts around the central fire.

Today was a significant day to come together in celebration and support for the Namgis, as it was Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Day. There are a disproportionate amount of missing indigenous people, women and men, in both Canada and The United States. Now more than ever, we must support and celebrate the strength and spirit these nations carry. We finished the evening with strength in our hearts and hopes for a brighter tomorrow.