Before the Finns


Before the Finns invites you to learn about the often untold stories of Malcolm Island. Residing in the unceded Kwakwaka’wakw Territory of the ‘Namgis, Kwakiutl, and Mamalilikala First Nations, Malcolm Island was first known as Tlatlaskudis. It means Seaweed Opposite Beaches in Kwak’wala, the language of the Kwakwaka’wakw people.

Though the story of this island is often mentioned in tourist magazines and academic papers with the Finnish immigration wave of 1901, its story spans far beyond. This exhibition highlights the island’s historical Indigenous heritage and history, which has survived over a century of colonization.

Before European settlers arrived Seaweed Opposite Beaches wasn’t an isolated or uninhabited place; it was a dynamic hub for seasonal villages, berry harvesting, halibut fishing, and tool making. An oral history from the Kwakiutl Nation speaks of burial trees near Pulteney Point. Clam middens, petroglyphs, and culturally modified trees are still on Malcolm Island, having outlasted the political landscape and settler changes.

A rich cultural tapestry

As you go through the exhibit take a moment to study our photographs and read about the clam middens, culturally modified trees, petroglyphs, current maps, Kwakw’ala to English translations, a land use plan, and oral history stories from the ‘Namgis, Kwakiutl, and Mamalilikala. You’ll not only gain insight into the island’s heritage but also find yourself more deeply immersed in its cultural tapestry. Gilakas’la means both welcome and thank you in Kwak’wala, and as you embark on this journey through time, we hope you discover not just a museum exhibition but a profound connection to Seaweed Opposite Beaches’s story. We extend our gratitude to the First Nations for sharing their rich history and perspectives. A special thank you to Kerri Reid for leading the development of the exhibition and to Diane Honey Alfred for donating her research.

plan your visit

Every journey to Sointula begins and ends with a boat trip – it’s part of the adventure!