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a totem pole and the Mungo Martin House a traditional big house with a large painted wall in Thunderbird Park Victoria

Thunderbird Park

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Victoria

Thunderbird Park: A culture display of totem poles, traditional big house and historic buildings

Activity:
Indigenous Experiences, Park
Difficulty:
Easy
Location:
Victoria
Time:
10min+
Distance:
.1km

Activity:

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Accessibility:

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Where to this weekend, Vancouver Island: Thunderbird Park, Victoria BC

Located in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, Thunderbird Park is more than just a green space in the heart of Victoria; it’s loaded with culture and history that offers a deep dive into the rich Indigenous heritage of British Columbia. This South Vancouver Island experience is perfect for anyone looking to take in some history and take a break from Victoria’s busy downtown core.

Three BC First Nation Totem Poles are located in a green space called Thunderbird Park. Royal BC Museum is in the backgroundNestled next to the Royal BC Museum, the park serves as an outdoor exhibit and a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Its collection of totem poles, First Nations monuments, and the iconic Mungo Martin House make it a must-visit landmark for anyone exploring Victoria.

Whenever we have guests visiting, we always make sure to take them through Thunderbird Park. It’s conveniently located and a wonderful addition to any Inner Harbour walking tour, whether you’re heading to Beacon Hill Park or the Royal BC Museum. We highly recommend it!

— Thunderbird Park is part of our self-guided “Victoria One Day Tour” —

 

Location map for Thunderbird Park beside the BC Royal Museum

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History & Significance

Thunderbird Park is linked to the Royal BC Museum and was established in 1941 to display totem poles from the provincial collections. In 1952, a forty-year restoration program began with Chief Martin as the head carver. In 1992, all of the totem poles were replaced with replicas, and the originals were moved inside for preservation.

Mungo Martin House, Wawadit’la

A traditional Kwakwaka’wakw “big house.” Built-in 1953, the Mungo Martin House pole bears Nakapankam clan crests. The house is a replica of the Nakap’ankam tribal house in which he had been born in Fort Rupert (Tsaxis).

The traditional hereditary rights to Wawadit’la get passed down and are now the property of Martin’s grandson and the house continues to be used for First Nations events.

Elliott Street Square

Behind Thunderbird Park is a late 1800s street home to the Helmcken House and St. Ann’s Schoolhouse. These two buildings are free to visit and are often open to explore on Saturday and Sunday from noon until 2:00 pm.

  1. Helmcken House: This is one of the oldest houses in British Columbia still on its original site. Built in 1852, it was the home of Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, a surgan for the Hudson’s Bay Company and a significant figure in BC’s entry into the Canadian Confederation. The house is now a museum that showcases Victorian-era artifacts and furnishings.
  2. St. Ann’s Schoolhouse: Built in 1844, and may be the oldest building still standing on Vancouver Island. It was constructed in the Hudson’s Bay Company Red River style and was purchased in 1853 for use as a Roman Catholic school. It was donated and moved to the Museum grounds in 1974.

Helpful Information

Thunderbird Park is conveniently located in downtown Victoria, adjacent to the Royal BC Museum, making it easily accessible whether you’re a local or a tourist. The park is open year-round, allowing visitors to experience its beauty and cultural richness in every season.

  • Virtual Tour: The Roayl BC museum has a virtual tour of the grounds and inside the Schoolhouse and Helmcken House
  • Location: 675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC – Directions
  • Hours of Operation: The park itself is open 24/7, although the Helmcken House and the schoolhouse buildings have specific visiting hours, usually Saturday and Sunday, Noon to 2 p.m.
  • Admission Fees: One of the best parts about Thunderbird Park is that it’s free to visit!
  • Parking: Underground parking is available at Government Stree Garage

Summing up Thunderbird Park

Two totem poles standing in front of a traditional big house with the Empress in the backgroundThunderbird Park is more than just a collection of totem poles and historical buildings; it’s a vibrant cultural hub that offers a unique and enriching experience for every visitor. From its towering totem poles and the iconic Mungo Martin House to the educational events and serene atmosphere, the park is a must-visit landmark in Victoria, BC. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a culture vulture, or simply looking for a peaceful escape, Thunderbird Park promises a memorable experience.

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Original Author:

Modified: January 2, 2024
Last Visit: August 22, 2023

Thank you for visiting – I hope you found the information you were looking for at VIBL (Vancouver Island Bucket List) please continue to discover all of the great places that makes Vancouver Island so great! 

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Land Acknowledgement:
We would like to acknowledge the land we appreciate daily within the 50 First Nations that make up the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, and Kwakiutl–the first peoples of Vancouver Island .

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