Historic Theme Pages
The Bella Coola Valley area is rich in wildlife and plants, which provided Nuxalk peoples with food and medicinal products. Large trees, such as cedar were used for housing, canoes, clothing and many other essential items. Villages were located along river banks and river mouths in order to give ready access to these natural resources. Ooligan, a smelt-like fish, was caught by the thousands from the Bella Coola River. Nuxalk peoples processed ooligans into grease and used it for a variety of purposes, including food and as a trade item. The Nuxalkmc lived in permanent house structures. Some were built on the ground, while others were raised on posts as high as 20 feet above ground, likely for protection from floods.
Travel in the valley was primarily accomplished using spoon or river canoes made of cedar. This transportation allowed Nuxalkmc to travel to other coastal villages and people from the interior. Acting as middle-men between the interior and coastal peoples, the Nuxalk gained considerable wealth. The interior peoples traveled the historic Nuxalk-Carrier grease trail that was later used by Alexander Mackenzie. These early trade relationships were built upon when the Hudson's Bay Company established a post in Bella Coola in 1867.
During 1862 and 1863 the Native villages in the Bella Coola Valley area were decimated by a smallpox epidemic. It has been estimated that the population was reduced by 70-90 percent. This horrific loss of lives led to an eventual congregation of all the area's villages at one location, Q'um'kuts. The village at Bella Coola remains today. Descendants from the villages live in Bella Coola as part of the Nuxalk First Nation.