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This article is about the ethnic group. For their language, see Nuxálk language.
Bella Coola (Nuxalk Nation)
Eulichan Stink Box.jpg
Nuxálk people gathered around an eulachon stink box near the Bella Coola River.
Regions with significant populations
Bella Coola, British Columbia
English, Nuxalk
American Indian panentheism, Christianity, other
Related ethnic groups
other Coast Salish peoples

The Nuxalk people (Nuxalk: Nuxálk; pronounced [nuxálk], with the 'x' like German ach), also referred to as the Bella Coola or Bellacoola, are an Indigenous First Nation in Canada, living in the area in and around Bella Coola, British Columbia. Their language is also called Nuxalk. Their tribal government is the Nuxalk Nation.

Name and tribes/groups[edit]

The name "Bella Coola", often used in academic writing, is not preferred by the Nuxálk; it is thought to be a derivation of the neighbouring coastal Heiltsuk people's name for the Nuxálk, bḷ́xʷlá (rendered plxwlaq's in Nuxalk orthography), meaning "stranger".

The Nuxalk peoples, known collectively as Nuxalkmc, were four tribes (the Kimsquit from Dean Channel whose village at Kimsquit, British Columbia was known as Suts'lhm, the Tallheo/Talio/Talyu from Tallheo on South Bentinck Arm, the Stuic (Stuie) from Tweedsmuir Park, whose village was Q'umk'uts, and the Kwalhna/Kwatna from King Island - Ista in the Nuxalk language). These were all gathered in their current location in the Bella Coola Valley by government edict, settling together based on cultural and linguistic similarities. Not everyone settled within the current communities in that valley, and as such the Nuxalk share many family ties with their neighbours and beyond, most extensively with the Heiltsuk.[1]

History and culture[edit]

Before contact, the Nuxalk population is estimated to have been approximately 35,000, according to oral histories and academic research, although Mooney in 1928 estimated that there were 1,400 Nuxalk in 1780.[2] In 1862 the great smallpox epidemic of that year reduced the Nuxalk to only 300 survivors by 1864. In 1902, according to Mooney, there were 302.[3] Nuxalk people were scattered throughout the territory and either relocated on their own to survive, or were forcibly removed by the Department of Indian Affairs (once that institution was created a few decades later), to form a settlement in what is now known as the Bella Coola Valley (the reserve is a mile or so upriver and east from the town of Bella Coola).

Nuxalk transformation mask, 19th century

Knowledge of family ancestry remains strong among the Nuxalk, including villages of descent, family crests, as well as songs and dances that recount the history and myth in smayustas. Nuxalk religion includes a belief in a father God (Axquatum), his son (Manakays), and a spirit deity (Smunways ). There is also a goddess in Nuxalk spiritual beliefs, Qamaits. Many Nuxalk embraced the Christian religion because of strong similarities between this Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit shared by the Nuxalk religion and Christianianity. Nuxalk society remains close-knit and embraces traditional beliefs. Contrary to supposition, as with other Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, they did not worship totem poles or the Sun.

The Nuxalk as a people and via their government maintain rights and title to their entire traditional territory and continue to strive to maintain their traditional systems of governance, basing it in their long and rich cultural history and continued use and occupation.

The Nuxalk Nation has long asserted its rights and obligations and has never ceded, sold, surrendered, nor lost traditional lands through act of war or by treaty. The Nuxalk remain strongly against entering any treaty process.

Current Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) population estimates indicate a total Nuxalk population of approximately 1400 with nearly 900 of those living on the Nuxalk reserve in Bella Coola. However, according to the traditional Nuxalk government, the true Nuxalk population is closer to 3,000. This number includes people of Nuxalk ancestry who are not registered with the Nuxalk Nation or may be registered to another band government.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]