In the early morning of August 29th, 1997 Alert Bay awoke to the news that our Big House (Gukwdzi) was on fire. Many people came from their homes to observe the devastating scene taking place.
While speculating how it could of happened, word spread that it was not an accident. Since that fateful day, Julio Castro Andino has been tried and convicted of arson. He is eligible for parole, but remains in prison.
The entire Kwakwaka'wakw community untied to rebuild the Alert Bay Big House. In May of 1998 the carvers began recreating the house posts and support beams. Construction began on the Big House in August of 1998. The official opening was on May 28/29, 1999.
Like the younger generations, some of the most important events of my life occurred in our Gukwdzi. I remember all of the old people from different tribes, most of them gone now, who would come and assist in many different ways to make our ceremonies successful. I remember in the early days, most of the singers at the log drum were Old People, and how the younger people slowly replaced them as they passed on.
Without the commitment of these young men to our culture, this would not be possible. I thank these young men, led by William Wasden Jr., on behalf of all the Kwakwaka'wakw.