A Brief History
For generations the Nuxalkmc have occupied the Bella Coola Valley amidst the magnificent mountains and lush forests of the central coast of British Columbia. Their aboriginal culture, rich in material and ceremonial wealth, was first encountered by Europeans in 1793, when explorer Alexander Mackenzie, his voyageurs, and native guides completed the first recorded crossing of North America. Seven weeks prior to Mackenzie’s visit, Captain George Vancouver’s surveyors had charted North Bentinck Arm. Traveling the historic Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail, Mackenzie’s party preceded the American government-financed Lewis and Clark expedition by twelve years.
From 1848 onwards, Bella Coola was a busy port and supply centre for the Interior. In 1867 the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post in Bella Coola. By 1892, sixteen non-native residents had settled in the Valley; two years later homesteads were granted to a large group of Norwegian-speaking colonists – many of whom became the first commercial loggers, fishermen and farmers in the area. The seeds of future tourism were sown in 1938, with the opening of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park: the largest in B.C.
Through the first half of the twentieth century Bella Coola remained isolated from the rest of the province. Local labour and volunteer effort changed this in 1953, when the “Freedom Road” was pushed over the mountains to Anahim Lake. Now connected to the provincial highway system, the Valley became the “Third Outlet to the Pacific”.