The village of Alert Bay represents in many ways a perfect microcosm of the coastal dispositions towards mobility. Alert Bay lies on Cormorant Island, in the Broughton Archipelago off the north eastern corner of Vancouver Island. Alert Bay is a small village of about 600 people who are members of the Namgis aboriginal First Nation. Another 600 people or so leave off the reserve land, in the houses south of the village. Aside from very limited commercial fishing there is no sizeable economic production of any kind on the island.
As the cultural epicentre of the Kwakwaka’wakw linguistic territory, Alert Bay has long been attracting many people to the island. From neighbouring tribes travelling back and forth to the island for Potlaches, and from the waves of anthropologists who followed the Potlaches, to the raids of Indian agents sent to ban potlatches, confiscate artefacts, and arrest band leaders, and to the more recent waves of cultural tourists, Cormorant Island has experienced multiple and radically different constellations of mobilities. Even the Namgis themselves do not consider themselves rooted here in any inalienable way, since their oral history reminds them that they came from the Nimpkish Lake area of Vancouver Island.