Skip to main content

300-person reunion on remote B.C. island brings healing to Indigenous family


Not many families could organize a weekend reunion of 300 relatives on a remote B.C. island. The sprawling Indigenous Cook family with roots in Alert Bay did just that.

Hundreds of descendants of Stephen and Jane Cook, who married in 1888, from all over western Canada gathered in this remote village off the northern tip of Vancouver Island for a reunion that takes place every 10 years.

The Cooks had 16 children, and now their descendants number in the hundreds. Those attending the reunion relished the opportunity to celebrate their Kwakwaka’wakw heritage in the Namgis Big House – a house modelled after the traditional homes that used to house dozens of family members under one roof. Elders, who remember when the government wanted to destroy Indigenous culture, wanted to pass on their customs to the next generation.

Hereditary Chief Chris Cook Jr. is one of the original organizers of the reunions that began more than 30 years ago.

“For me as a kid, we weren’t allowed to sing, we weren’t allowed to dance. We were not even allowed to talk our language. They were going to take the Indian out of the kid, but they couldn’t take it all, all they had to leave was just a little bit because that is what I had.”

Another Cook family member, Halie Bruce, brought her daughters to the Alert Bay reunion “to introduce them to their homeland so they can have their feet firmly planted.”

She spent time in foster care as a child until she went to live with her uncle, Chris Cook, in Alert Bay. She credits her family and connection to her Indigenous culture with strengthening her.

Bruce is now a lawyer who has practiced in the area of child welfare and knows the trauma that can arise when a child is taken from their home in an Indigenous community.

“We don’t have to stay in that darkness, we can step into the light if we can find the networks of support, of family, culture and identity. The power of culture to heal is what we are doing here when we bring people home.” Top Stories

Here is Canada's unseasonably mild December forecast

December is predicted to be unseasonably mild across Canada, thanks to a "moderate-to-strong" El Nino and human-caused warming. Warming and precipitation trends will be stronger in some parts of the country than others, and severe weather is still possible, meteorologists say.

Stay Connected