The History of the
Culture has been defined as the total means by which a
people provide for material, emotional, and intellectual needs.
It is a complex system which includes language, arts, customs,
Our ancestors believed that culture was
a gift of the Creator, given to them as the first born of this
land, and inextricably linked to the natural environment and
resources of our natural territories.
Over thousands of years, our culture has
continued to evolve through an ancient and continuing dialogue
between our people, the Creator, and this environment.
The natural evolution of our people into
participation within the 19th and 20th century global
developments was disrupted by immigrant peoples who sought to
redirect and replace our culture--as they did with those of
colonized people throughout the world--with bits and pieces of
The Heiltsuk experienced these
disruptive forces, but they have never relinquished their
cultural identity and birthright. Today, the position of the
Heiltsuk Band is that a re-awakened understanding of traditional
Heiltsuk knowledge, values, history, and cultural achievements is
essential for the social and economic development and survival of
the Heiltsuk people.
Accordingly, in 1973, the Council of the
Bella Bella Indian Band, as it was then called, started major
initiatives to investigate, document and preserve the rich
cultural heritage of the Heiltsuk. These initiatives included:
Heiltsuk language research, the Heiltsuk Museum and Archives
Research Project, the Autobiographies Taping Project, Grade 8
Curriculum Outline, and planning the design and concept for a
Band-operated local Community School and new school facilities.
In 1974, the Band began participating in the newly created
Cultural / Educational Centres Program (DIA Ottawa). Construction
of the junior secondary building of the Bella Bella Community
School was completed in 1976, and the Band assumed control of the
local education system. In 1979, the Heiltsuk Cultural Education
Centre became a full-fledged program area of the Band, operating
directly under Band Council and the on-going advice and direction
of the Yîlîstis Group of community elders.