Much of the information in this article is summarized from the following publications:
The author is also indebted to Harvey Russell, Don Wells and Ivan Wells for information on the Lax Kw'Alaams (Port Simpson) Concert Band.
Fort Simpson, later Port Simpson and now Lax Kw’Alaams was the third community on the northwest coast of British Columbia to develop a brass band. Port Simpson was a Methodist village but the date of formation of a band is unclear. What is certain is that there was more than one brass band in the village, perhaps as many as three. The first recorded performance of a band was the fall of 1887, for the Indian Affairs Commissioners C. F. Cornwall and J. P. Planta. They reported that:
"The Indian village, spread over a considerable area, with several streets and numerous houses, presented quite an imposing appearance ... There is a fire-brigade house and a Temperance Hall; street-lamps are used, and a brass band was heard at practice in the evening."1
By 1900 the Prince of Wales Band, one of the brass bands, had become a concert (brass and reed) band and was called Nelson’s [Silver] Cornet Band. Use of the name Nelson may have been related to Chief Harry E. Nelson, who, it is thought, organized the band. More likely, however, it was the name Job Nelson, the director of the band at the time. After Job Nelson left the band it changed its name to the Port Simpson Concert Band, which still exists today, an unbroken history of over 120 years.
Port Simpson Concert Band, Prince Rupert Sea Festival ca. 2003.
Nelson’s Cornet Band had a uniform consisting of a loose-fitting, shawl-like top, emblazoned with native Indian figures. This group later hired Alfred Prescott, a professional bandmaster from England, to direct the group and help them maintain their position as the leading First Nations band in the province.
In 1901 the band was photographed the morning of a reception for the First Nations people who had gathered to honour the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary).
Edwards Brothers, City of Vancouver Archives, In P24.
Nelson’s Cornet Band ca. 1901
Like other northern coastal bands, the Port Simpson brass bands, and subsequent concert bands, were present at almost every ceremonial occasion and exposition, including:
J.D. Allen Photographic Company, Prince Rupert City and Regional Archives, 187.
Port Simpson concert Band at the Victoria Day Celebrations, May 1908.
The United Church of Canada Marine Missions on the Central Coast of British Columbia.
Port Simpson Concert Band ca. 192-.
Photographer: Jo-Anne Cooper.
Lax Kw’Alaams Concert Band ca. 1960.
Port Simpson, ca. 1890.
In researching brass bands one frequently finds photographs of bands at public ceremonies and special events. In this photo the Port Simpson Brass Band leads a wedding procession.
Author: Brian Stride (2006)Return to First Nations Brass Bands
Updated 2007 Jan 06, 18:23 EST/EDT