Coastal Islands, Pacific Northwest
Cormorant Island is located just offshore from Port McNeil, Vancouver Island and is the location of the Namgis peoples village, Yalis. The Island was traditionally used as a burial island and also as a summer residence by the Namgis people for many generations.
The Island is the home of the North Island’s oldest settlers community, Alert Bay, it was used as a trading center by early settlers of the area. Cormorant Island is quite small, being only 4 kilometers long and measuring roughly 1 kilometer wide at the narrowest point of the island. Alert Bay visitors can enjoy many activities such as whale watching, Eco-tours, kayaking, hiking, and biking. Cormorant Island is located off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island and can be reached by a short ferry ride from Port McNeil.
Fishing in Blackfish Sound east of the Island is a productive salmon fishing area, with Chinook, sockeye, pinks, coho, northern coho, chum and winter springs being caught at different times of the year. Halibut fishing from April to September can be very productive and you can regularly catch fish in the 50-kilo range and occasionally catch giants up to 100 kilos.
The ‘Namgis people are residents of Cormorant Island in the village of Alert Bay and have traditional claims on much of the surrounding area including most of the Nimpkish River Valley.
Early ‘Namgis history tells of a man named Gwa’nalalis who the Creator turned into a river, the Gwa’ni River. This is the Nimpkish River. This river was the heart of the ‘Namgis people. At one time, there were as many as 9,000 people living in the area, with people of the Namgis living all along the Nimpkish River Valley, as well as on islands off the coast near the river-mouth, including Cormorant Island. They are people of the canoe, Salmon People.
The art and culture of the Namgis is fascinating and is a very big part of this community. The Big House is so beautiful with the worlds tallest totem pole located there, the potlaches, feasting, and dancing can take you to another time. My wife and I love to visit Cormorant Island, my wife’s father was a man of the Namgis and she has many relatives there.