Heiltsuk History

The Heiltsuk, also Bella Bella, are an Indigenous people of the Central Coast region in British Columbia, centred on the island community of Bella Bella. The government of the Heiltsuk people is the Heiltsuk Nation, though the term is also used to describe the community. Its largest community is Bella Bella.

“The Heiltsuk people have lived in their lands; on what has come to be called the Central Coast of British Columbia, since time immemorial. Formerly known as the Bella Bella Indians, the Heiltsuk speak Hailhzaqvla, the Heiltsuk language. Hailhzaqvla is considered a separate language but is part of what linguists call the Wakashan language family.”


Ancestors of the Heiltsuk have been in the Central Coast region of British Columbia since at least 7190 BCE. The Heiltsuk are the descendants of a number of tribal groups who came together in Bella Bella in the 19th century.

Detail of a 19th-century bentwood chest by Heiltsuk artist Captain Richard Carpenter (Du’klwayella)

The Heiltsuk practice(d) a set of cultural expressions that have been grouped together with other, similar groups under the term ‘Northwest Coast.’ These expressions include organization into extended family groups, linkage to origin stories, ranking and differentiation in status, ownership of non-physical prerogatives, seasonal movement to harvest resources centred on large permanent ‘winter villages,’ sophisticated use of wood, stone and other items, complex ceremonies and elaborate social interactions culminating in the ‘Potlatch.’

Rediscovered in recent years by a collaboration between archaeologists and traditional knowledge-holders, clam gardens extend throughout the coast of BC.

The Heiltsuk were renowned among their neighbours for their artistic, military, ceremonial and spiritual expertise.

Source From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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