First Nations History, Heritage, & Culture
Home to the Kwakiutl, Gwa’Sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw, and Quatsino First Nations, Port Hardy and the surrounding area is rich in tradition and deep-rooted in native culture. Totems and big houses stand tall and weathered throughout Port Hardy and the neighbouring community of Fort Rupert, telling of the aboriginal history that began over 8,000 years ago.
Known as Tsaxis by the Kwakiutl people, the community of Fort Rupert overlooks the calm waters of Beaver Harbour and across to the sandy shores of Storey’s Beach. Petroglyphs carved into sandstone, carefully carved totems, and an elaborately painted big house are testament to the long-established heritage and the living culture of the Kwakiutl Nation and people who have worked the land and called the area home for millennia. It is here where the traditions of the Kwagu’l intersected with the prospects and promise introduced by early explorers, where the community of Port Hardy soon emerged. Hard to discern, all that remains of the Hudson’s Bay Trading Post once established in 1849 are the remnant’s of a jagged chimney stack from the Officers Quarters being slowly reclaimed by nature.
The intrinsic details of the connections of the Kwagu’l Nation to the land, wildlife, and natural environment come alive through the intercut carvings of coppermaker, Calvin Hunt. The aromatic fragrance of cedar fills the workshop as traditional Kwakwaka’wakw works of art begin to take shape in the form of elaborate totems, canoes, paddles and masks. Guests are welcome to watch as steady hands carefully carve the details that tell the story and inspiration behind the each creations. Gallery located at 114 Copper Way, Fort Rupert BC. It is recommended that arrangements be made in advance.
The Nakwakto Rapids & Cultural tour is a breathtaking experience. A scenic boat ride brings guests to the site of the most powerful tidal currents in the world. Catch glimpses of abandon settlements and visit traditional village sites as you journey into the depths of the traditional territory of the Gwa’Sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation. Share in the culture of Gwa’Sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw and discover the interconnections between the people and the natural elements of the coastal landscape they call home. Availability is limited, please make reservations in advance.
Design inspired by a traditional big house, the striking beauty of the Western red cedar that lines the walls of the Kwa’lilas Hotel captures the eye and delicately hints at the blend of culture and coastal elements that create the traditional ambience the new hotel offers. Named by the elders of the Gwa’Sala-Nakwaxda’xw Nation, Kwa’lilas, means a place to sleep. Celebrating the culture and traditions of the Gwa’Sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw people, the intricate artwork created by the community’s artists are featured throughout the hotel for all to admire. Share in the experience, taste traditional flavors in the restaurant, and discover an authentic native culture like non other.