The History of the HCEC

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, and beliefs.

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 their own.

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. The Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre P.O. Box 880 Bella Bella, British Columbia V0T 1Z0 Tel (250) 957-2626, Fax (250) 957-2780