Nuxalkmc: the Nuxalk People

Above: Nuxalk Sun Mask, American Museum of Natural History. "The Nuxalk Nation is a small indigenous community of about 1300 individuals. These people are from various locations within Nuxalk Territory. They amalgamated after the smallpox epidemic in 1862. This territory is also known as Bella Coola Valley, a steep sided valley within the coastal temperate rainforest ecosystem of the central coast of British Columbia. The Nuxalkmc (Nuxalk People) have traditionally depended on a diverse and healthy diet based on salmon, other seafood, root vegetables and greens, wild berries and game from their home territories. Like other small coastal communities, the Nuxalkmc have encountered major economic and social change over the past two hundred years, and they have, as a group, incurred a myriad of health problems related to loss of traditional foods and altered life styles."

"Inherent strengths of traditional knowledge provide the basis for physical, emotional, spiritual and physiological health and well being. Today, as with many first nations, we are determined to continue to hold onto what is not exploited, and in some cases have been successful in holding corporations at bay. We have been fortunate to have allies with like minded values and have shared victories. The corporations have moved on and allies seek other assignments, however Nuxalk Territory is home to the Nuxalkmc." Ray Morton: Ancestral Tide

Left: "Bella Coola Masks," American Museum of Natural History, New York City. Our Sun Mask and many other important ceremonial masks from the 19th century are in this collection. They were "collected" by the German founder of modern anthropology, Franz Boas, whose early trip to Bella Coola inspired his life long work. Boas had first seen the "Bella Coola Indians" while they were on tour in Germany in 1888 and his fascination with our culture led him to travel here.

Echo Mask

"The Echo Mask belongs to the Nuxalk People. The Echo Mask is a ceremonial mask which was carved in 1860 by a Nuxalk master carver. The mask is carved from alder. It has six interchangeable mouth pieces and has it's original horse hair attached to the forehead. The Echo Mask Dance was performed as recently as 1995 at a Winter Ceremony."

"The Nuxalk Nation were successful in preventing this sacred mask from being sold to a Chicago art collector. The Echo Mask was repatriated to the Nuxalk People in November, 1997."

"The Nuxalk Nation are grateful to the federal government for their assistance in the repatriation of this very important mask to the Nuxalk People. We are also grateful to the Williams Lake and District Credit Union for their assistance in storing and safekeeping this mask." Stutwiniitscw – Nuxalk Nation

Acwsalcta – Place of Learning

Today the Nuxalk language is taught at Acwsalcta School and that Nuxalk place names are relearned. New generations of Nuxalk children are taught to appreciate traditional foods, such as a freshly caught giant crab (right). The Rediscovery Camp educates younger Nuxalkmc by visiting ancient ancestral sites. "Despite the government tactics to erase a Nuxalk identity, we remain dedicated to protecting our ways of life, our language, and our ties to our families and Ancestral Territory, as did our grandparents before us" Nuxalk Band Council.

Right: The 40 ft totem pole at the Acwsalcta School was raised in 2007. It was carved from a 600 year old cedar tree by Alvin Mack and his son Lyle.

Acwsalcta translates as "Place of Learning." The Acwsalcta School ended the oppressive colonial system of education:

"With the settlement of what is now known as BC, residential schools and public schools were established to re educate aboriginal children in colonial language, history and culture. The manadatory attendance of Nuxalk children at these schools undermined traditional systems of education and worked to strip Nuxalk children of our own identity."

Nuxalkmc Children, Snuxyaltwa Totem Pole Raising 2009



Nuxalk Smayusta Homepage