As canoes bearing guests invited to a potlatch at 'Yalis (Alert Bay) slowly approach the shore, they are greeted by a Welcome Dance. White eagle down scattered from the crown of the dancer's headdress swirls around him as a symbol of peace and solemn ceremony. The richness of his dress -- carved headdress with its ermine trailer, copper-design button blanket, and elaborate raven rattle -- honours the rank of the arriving chiefs. The host stands ready to greet the guests and invite them ashore for his hospitality -- "The fire is ready." The double-headed serpent, Sisiutl, grasped by a Thunderbird, forms his headdress and is repeated in the figures on his talking stick.
The time is the 1890s, but with the revival of canoe making in the 1990s could just as well be a century later. The dress and regalia of the participants has hardly changed, and the view from Alert Bay across Broughton Strait to Vancouver Island is very much as it was in those earlier days.