T̕sit̕sikala̱m - April 2020

Donald Ellis helps return Sun Mask


In July of 2019 U’mista was fortunate to receive a missing Sun Mask from the Potlatch Collection donated via long-term loan to U’mista by Donald Ellis. Mr. Ellis arranged forthe purchase of the mask from a private seller and kept it asecret up until a few weeks before the opening of “The Story Box: Franz Boas, George Hunt and the Making of Anthropology” in Alert Bay on July 20, 2019.The Sun masks long and storied provenance begins in 1922when it is photographed along with other items surrendered by the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw by Vivian Lord and William Halliday at the Parish Hall (now torn down) behind the Anglican Church.

In 1922, forty-five Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw were charged and sentenced for violation of the anti-potlatch law (Section 149,Indian Act). Individuals were given a choice of serving their sentences or their entire village populations were expected to give up all their ceremonial gear to keep those individuals out of prison.

The bulk of the confiscated objects were shipped to the National Museum of Man in Ottawa, (now the Canadian Museum of History) where part of the Collection was sent to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. However, before the shipment was made, George Heye bought thirty-three artifacts from the Indian Agent in Alert Bay. These artifacts were added to the collection of the Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation.

In the late 60’s, the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw began to work to-wards the return of the Potlatch Collection held by the National Museum of Man. By 1973, the Board of Trustees of the National Museums Corporation agreed to return the treasures to us. Consequently, the Kwakiutl Museum in Cape Mudge and the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay were opened in 1979 and 1980 respectively, to receive the returned collection.

Sun Mask Archive photo

While we celebrated the return of part of the Collection, we knew that our task was not complete until we negotiated the return of those objects held by the Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation. In 1988 the ROM materials were returned to U’mista and Nuyumbalees. Finally in 1993, the first 9 items were returned from the MAI. In 2002 the remainder of the Potlatch Collection items were returned. However, some objects had been sold off to art galleries. This sun mask was one of them. Its provenance is a bit mysterious since there is no note in the Museum of the American Indians card catalogue stating who the mask had been sold to.

Renowned anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss owned the mask for a short time and from there we lose track of it again until 2019 when Donald Ellis purchased the mask from a private collector in France. The mask will remain on long-term loan from Mr. Ellis and in the near future ownership will transfer to U’mista. Gilakas’la Mr. Ellis!


Della Green new U'mista Board Member

Many of you may remember Della as our former Office Manager, Administrative Assistant and Director of Operations, Della joined us in 2014 and wore many hats before retiring in July of 2019. Now she is our newest member of the U’mista Cultural Society Board of Directors.

Della Green (née McDougall) moved away from Alert Bay in 1970. For the first four years she lived in Vancouver, Calgary, Alert Bay again (for 6 months) then Calgary again. She then moved to Victoria, where she lived for 28 years before moving to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories with her husband, Dean Green.

They made Yellowknife their home for 10 years before deciding it was time to come home, as this is where Della is from and in her words, “I am a proud ’Namgis woman.” Della reconnected with family and friends, and attended many Feast/Potlatches since returning home.

Della was a vital member of the U’mista team from 2015 to July 0f 2019. Her fantastic organizational skills, courteous and friendly nature made her a valuable member of the team. Della looks forward to learning and engaging in her new role as a Director of the U’mista Cultural Society Board.

G̱ilakas’la Della!


Access 2 Card program

Easter Seals Canada’s award winning Access 2 Card program was launched in 2004 with support from Cineplex Entertainment and a group of national disability organizations. The Access 2 Card program helps to ensure that entertainment, cultural and recreational opportunities are more available and accessible to all. Managed and administered by Easter Seals Canada (located in Toronto), the Access 2 Card program has grown to reach over 100,000 Canadians who are living with disabilities, and includes over 500 participating partner venues across the country. With the support of all our proud partner venues and fantastic cardholders, Access 2 has emerged as a national leader in helping create opportunities for individuals with disabilities and raising awareness about the importance of accessible venues. U’mista is now a registered venue for access 2 card holders. See http://access2card.ca/ for more details.



g̱ulali (G, N, T) ḵ̕a̱mdza̱kw (K, L-fruit in general),
t̕sut̕sa̱łtsa̱m (K-dark berries) ’ma’ma̱’liḵ (K-yellow berries),
ḵa̱mdza̱xw’ma̱s (K, L-plant),
ḵ̕wa’ła̱m (K, L, N-edible shoots) ḵ̕wał’ma̱s (G, K-plant)
Rubus spectabilis


The salmonberry plant grows to 4 metres tall. Its bright green leaves have jagged edges and drop off in the fall. The flowers, which are the earliest to bloom of all berry bushes, range in colour from pink to red or magenta (very dark pink). The mushy berries ripen early and look like raspberries but are less flavorful. The taste depends on the growing conditions of the bush and may range from sweet to slightly sour. The berries are yellow, red or purplish when ripe which is the reason why there are different Kwak'wala names for the fruit based on their colours. Salmonberries are common on the west coast of British Columbia.


The berries were eaten fresh, boiled, mashed or dried (in red cedar wood frames). The berries were dried into cakes, rolled up and stored in wooden boxes. The young sprouts were eaten fresh and sometimes dipped in sugar or eulachon oil along with dried salmon. The bark was powdered and used to relieve burns and sores. The yellow berries are said to represent the humpback salmon and the dark red berries represent the sockeye salmon because the fish appear at the same time as the berries.

G̱ilakas’la to all of our generous sponsors, members, donators, and shoppers! As a registered Charity, your support is vital to continue our valuable work.