On Thursday, we visited the Museum of Anthropology on the campus of the University of British Columbia.
The Museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts from British Columbia’s First Nations and other aboriginal cultures from around the world. We started our tour by looking at the totem poles and carvings in the Great Hall.
Kwakwaka’wakw feast dish
Next we visited Bill Reid’s famed sculpture depicting the story of the origins of the Haida people. As legend has it, Raven was walking along a beach in Haida Gwaii one day when he spotted some small human beings emerging from a clamshell. Raven coaxed them to come out and join him in his wonderful world, and the little humans became the first Haida.
The Raven and The First Men, by Bill Reid (1980)
Banging on slit gongs from western Indonesia
One big highlight of our visit (for me, not necessarily for the kids!) was seeing the Museum’s most recent acquisition, a Mowachaht-Muchalaht (Nuu-chah-nulth Nation) ceremonial club originally given to the explorer Captain James Cook in 1778 when he visited Vancouver Island’s west coast during his final voyage.
Another highlight for me was listening to a reel-to-reel tape recording dating from 1970 in which linguist Jay Powell interviews Quileute elder William Penn. At that time there were 40 fluent speakers of the Quileute language; the last fluent speaker died in 2009. It was very moving to listen to the sounds of a language that has now been lost to us except in recorded state.
Kwakwaka’wakw feast dish cover (Kingcome Inlet, 1900)
The Museum is worth visiting not just for its collections, but for its Arthur Erickson-designed building and its magnificent setting at the western edge of Point Grey, overlooking the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia). On the grounds of the Museum are a replica Haida village and a reflecting pool representing a coastal inlet.
Stay tuned for Spring Break Adventures, Day 5: Commercial Drive!