Department of Canadian Heritage

Department of Canadian Heritage

June 08, 2015 13:00 ET

New Exhibition on Quadra Island Showcases the Life and Legacy of Chief Billy Assu

Minister John Duncan announces support for exhibition about historical Chief of the Kwakwaka'wakw people

QUATHIASKI COVE, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - June 8, 2015) - Department of Canadian Heritage

The Nuyumbalees Society will receive $24,845 in funding through the Museums Assistance Program to present a new exhibition about Chief Billy Assu (1867-1965), an historical chief of the Kwakwaka'wakw people.

The Honourable John Duncan, Minister of State and Member of Parliament (Vancouver Island North), made this announcement today on behalf of the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

The exhibition, entitled The Man Behind the Masks: The Life and Legacy of Chief Billy Assu, will illustrate the history of Chief Assu using photos, interviews and song recordings from the 1920s. The displays will showcase crests, carvings, and dances associated with the Assu family and regalia, including Chief Assu's ceremonial robe.

The Society will also develop an educational component to complement the exhibition, including information about potlatches and a travelling exhibition for the local school district.

Quick Facts

  • The Man Behind the Masks: The Life and Legacy of Chief Billy Assu will officially open on August 1, 2015 at the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre (NCC).
  • The NCC is located in Cape Mudge, on Quadra Island, British Columbia.
  • The Nuyumbalees Society, which operates the NCC, was established in 1975, and in 1979 opened the longest-operating Aboriginal cultural facility in the province. It was one of two Kwakwaka'wakw organizations to house a portion of repatriated potlatch artefacts, with the other half of the collection housed in the U'mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, British Columbia.
  • Chief Billy Assu was an important historical figure of the Kwakwaka'wakw people, traditional inhabitants of the coastal areas of northeastern Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. Chief Assu was awarded the Coronation Medal in 1937 by King George IV and a Meritorious Service Award in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his leadership and many achievements.
  • The Museums Assistance Program provides funding to Canadian museums and related institutions for projects that foster excellence in museum activities and that facilitate access to the treasures of our collective heritage.


"We recognize the important role that museums play in strengthening our communities and enriching the quality of life of Canadians. The Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre is a unique heritage facility that showcases and preserves the important First Nations history of British Columbia. We are pleased to support them and their incredible work through the Museums Assistance Program."

- The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

"The Nuyumbalees Society, through its exhibition on Chief Billy Assu's life and legacy, is offering visitors to the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre a chance to learn about an important figure in British Columbia's history. I commend the Society for launching this exhibition. I also commend the other important work the Society has done, including its role in collecting and preserving First Nations artefacts, as well as ensuring that traditional activities like carving and dancing ceremonies are kept alive in our community."

-The Honourable John Duncan, Minister of State and Member of Parliament (Vancouver Island North)

"On behalf of the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre, I extend our sincerest appreciation to Canadian Heritage for its support of our new exhibit. The Man Behind the Masks: The Life and Legacy of Chief Billy Assu will provide an excellent chance to share the history of one of British Columbia's strongest coastal First Nations chiefs and highlight the tremendous impact he had on our communities. We look forward to the official opening of the exhibit in August and take this opportunity to welcome everyone to the Village of Cape Mudge for the celebration and community feast."

-Rod Naknakim, Vice-President, Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre

Associated Links

Nuyumbalees Society

Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre

Museums Assistance Program

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Contact Information

  • Marisa Monnin
    Director of Communications
    Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
    and Official Languages

    Anna Gravelle
    Regional Communications Manager
    Canadian Heritage
    Western Region

    Media Relations
    Canadian Heritage