A vehicle can become a time machine on Vancouver Island. Thanks to a long and creative history the Island’s Native Peoples have created a rich legacy that can easily be experienced first-hand in the form of a Native-themed driving tour. From Victoria in the south to Port Hardy in the north, sites and locations that present and celebrate the Island’s First Peoples can be found. A far from complete sampling of these destinations include the south island’s Sidney Whale Watching, which is an opportunity to observe local cetaceans or go sea kayaking with a Native guide in a non-intrusive manner.
Just north of the Victoria area near Duncan the Cowichan Band-owned Quw’utsun’ centre is scenically situated on six acres of landscaped pasture land along the Cowichan River. While there guest can learn about the culture and heritage of the Cowichan people first hand. Groups can also sometimes arrange for special performances from the Quw’utsun’ dancers, the dances and songs have been passed down from generation to generation.
Proceeding northward visitors to Nanaimo are encouraged to visit Petroglyph Provincial Park, a two hectare parcel adorned with ancient rock carvings that depicting everything from mystical wolf-like creatures to fish and human figures, craving made millennia ago for ceremonial and other purposes. This sandstone gallery of petroglyphs is located on a hill overlooking Nanaimo’s busy harbor and is just a short distance from the interpretive area along the walkway.
The Island’s West Coast is also home to numerous native-themed destinations, including West Coast Expeditions at Kyuquot, where guided sea kayaking adventures allow visitors to get up close and personal with a vast number of creatures including Grey and Killer Whales, Sea Otters, Sea Lions and Eagles. For the adventurous soul expeditions of a week or longer can be arranged.
Further north on Vancouver Island, the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre on Quathiaski Cove (on Quadra Island near Campbell River) is an excellent way to discover the fascinating treasures of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. This traditionally constructed facility houses headdresses, masks, basketry, a three-story totem and a collection of photographs dating from the turn of the century. At the northern end of your Vancouver Island journey you will discover the Copper Maker Gallery located at Fort Henry, located just south of the town of Port Hardy.
While there see some of the finest examples of West Coast Native art, thanks to the skills of the gallery’s owner’s Calvin and Marie Hunt who opened the centre as a way to teach the Kwakwakw’waka children their “Gwa’layu”, their reason for living. The Gallery was developed to provide the children with a creative, inspiring environment that generates knowledge of their crests, legends, songs and dances, giving them a sound foundation of their identity.
This list of sites and potential visitor destinations could go on. Vancouver Island is rich in natural wonders, and is cultural history – a history that can be easily explored first hand by adventurous mobile explorers. If you want to learn more about the lasting legacy of the Island’s First Peoples, do some research, compile a list of destinations and then head out on the open road in a Van Ventures camper unit. It will be a journey you won’t soon forget.