Inspire a Love for Alberni Valley – Indigenous Culture

The Alberni Valley sits on the unceded traditional territories of the Tseshaht and Hupačasath First Nations.

(From left to right) Aaron Watts, Robert S Watts, Shane Sieber and Cody Joe Gus walk in front of a mural depicting Tseshaht First Nation’s history at the entrance of Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, on December 11, 2023.

Tseshaht First Nation Elected Chief Councillor Ken Watts was born and raised on his traditional territory of Tseshaht First Nation, which, along with that of the Hupačasath First Nation, encompasses the entire Alberni Valley.

For Watts, his connection to his homelands stems from “the generations of my ancestors who once walked here.” For Watts, each place has a traditional song and dance attached to it.

“I hope people [visiting] get a sense of that,” he said.

To experience Tseshaht First Nation lands through the lens of the nation’s elected chief councillor, follow Watts’ guide on how to spend 24 hours in Port Alberni—the first of two 24-hour itineraries sharing the culture of the two First Nations whose homelands encompass the Alberni valley.

WATCH: An introduction to Indigenous culture in the Alberni Valley

READ: Indigenous Culture in the Alberni Valley on ZenSeekers.com

 

Itinerary 1

24 hours with Tseshaht culture, Ken Watts

Breakfast

Start your day at Pescadores Bistro, a favourite breakfast spot among locals, serving a wide range of sweet and savoury options to satisfy everyone’s palate.

Morning

With a full belly, head over to Sproat Lake Provincial Park, recently voted the “best lake in BC” through a CBC readers’ poll. At one end of the lake, you can see early Indigenous petroglyphs dating back thousands of years, from a special floating dock.

Hupačasath First Nation Elected Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder walks to the petroglyphs at Sproat Lake, near Port Alberni, on December 11, 2023.

After you’ve finished exploring the trails around the lake, stop in at Victoria Quay to watch the eagles soaring overhead. In the summer, you can often spot bears across the river at low tide hunting for fish, Watts said.

Once you’ve had your fill of bird watching, walk over to a totem pole carved by Nuu-chah-nulth master carver Tim Paul. Erected in 2021, the Language Revitalization Pole stands where Roger Street meets Victoria Quay.

While Paul is from Hesquiaht First Nation, Watts said it “shows the deep connection” other Nuu-chah-nulth nations have to Port Alberni.

Lunch

Tuck in to Twin City Brewing Company, a local watering hole that serves up award-winning locally-crafted beer, as well as locally sourced, made in-house artisan pizza and other mouthwatering options. Twin City Brewing stands as a testament to the flourishing craft beer scene in Port Alberni, inviting guests to experience the perfect blend of creativity, camaraderie, and, of course, exceptional beer.

Afternoon

From here, take a stroll to the Harbour Quay making sure to stop on Harbour Road, across from the Port Alberni Train Station, to take in a mural depicting Tseshaht First Nation’s history.

(From left to right) Aaron Watts, Robert Watts, Cody Gus and Shane Sieber walk in front of a mural depicting Tseshaht First Nation’s history at the entrance of Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, on December 11, 2023.

Tseshaht First Nation Elected Chief Councillor Ken Watts stands on top of the Wolf Tower in Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, on December 11, 2023.

Finish your day by climbing up the Wolf Tower in the Harbour Quay, where you can take in the artwork depicting the wolf ritual by Tseshaht artist, Willard Gallic Jr.

Following Watts’ recommendations, read on for a 24-hour Hupačasath-inspired itinerary from the nation’s chief councillor, Brandy Lauder.

 

Itinerary 2

24 hours with Hupačasath culture, Brandy Lauder

Brandy Lauder is Hupačasath First Nation’s chief councillor and has spent her entire life living on her traditional territory. Doubling as the nation’s natural resource manager, Lauder is passionate about her homelands.

“Everything we do stems from these lands and these waters,” she said.

To discover her favourite spots in the valley, follow Lauder’s 24-hour guide to Port Alberni.

 

Morning

Begin your day by grabbing a bite to eat at Boomerangs Café, a breakfast restaurant that features an array of classic Australian dishes.

Then, pack a lunch and head to Nahmint or Elcie Lake. (You must drive on rough logging roads to access these remote lakes, which are not suitable for all vehicles.)

Lunch

Depending on the time of year, Lauder said she might bring a trout rod, and cook her catch off the side of the lake.

Afternoon

After lunch, head back into town to the Harbour Quay to do a little shopping and treat yourself to a tasty delight at The Donut Shop.

The Donut Shop at Harbour Quay

Once you’ve satisfied your sweet tooth, head over to China Creek Campground and take in the views of the Alberni Inlet from the beach.

China Creek Campground

Finish your day at Twin City Brewing Company, a local watering hole that serves up award-winning locally-crafted beer.

Dinner

After the sun goes down, drive back into town to hit up Bucksnort’s Bar & Grill for one of their notoriously “giant” platters.

 

For More Alberni Love

Check out the rest of our “Inspire a Love for the Alberni Valley” series, revealing local tips to the best of the valley.

For more on the cultural traditions of the Tseshaht First Nation and Hupačasath First Nation, and how they shape the Alberni Valley today, read this feature story on ZenSeekers.com.