The Bella Coola were one of the tribes of Northwest Indians who erected Totem Poles. Totem poles were carved with animals that symbolized their guardian spirits. The names of other tribes who made Totem Poles included the Tlingit, Chinook, Haida, Tsimshian and the Coast Salish.
Facts about the Bella Coola Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Bella Coola Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Bella Coola tribe live, what clothes did they wear and what food did they eat? Discover what happened to the Bella Coola tribe with facts about their history.
Where did the Bella Coola tribe live?
The Bella Coola are people of the Northwest Coast cultural group. The location of the Bella Coola tribal homelands are shown on the map. The Nuxalk people lived in Bella Coola Valley, a steep sided valley within the coastal temperate rainforest ecosystem of the central coast of British Columbia. The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Bella Coola tribe.
- Land: Tall dense forests, oceans, mountains and rivers.
- Climate: The climate was very warm summers and cold, rain drenched winters
- Animals: The animals included Mountain goats and sheep, deer, moose, fox, mink, beaver, bear and elk
- Fish: Salmon, halibut, eulachon (candlefish), herring and shellfish. Sea animals included seals, sea otters and whales
- Natural Resources: Red cedar trees, bulbs, wapato (Indian Potato) greens, seeds and berries, forests, mountains, rivers and the bounty of the Pacific Ocean
What did the Bella Coola live in?
The Bella Coola tribe lived in plankhouses built from the red cedar trees that were so abundant in their location. The Bella Coola built the plankhouses over a pit in various sizes which were located in large villages of up to 1000 people. The size of the plankhouses range from 20 to 60 feet wide and from 50 to 150 feet long. There were no windows in the plank house but there were roof slots that let fresh air in, and smoke from cooking fires out.
Many of the plank houses and doorways were adorned with pole carvings of totems that illustrated the dwellers clan, history or mythology.
The picture shows the entrance to the plankhouse as an open mouth. This reflects the mythology of the Bella Coola people (see the beliefs of the Bella Coola below).
What language did the Bella Coola tribe speak?
The Bella Coola tribe spoke Nuxalk, a Salishan language of the Northwest Coast.
Bella Coola Art
The Bella Coola were expert wood carvers and various items were decorated with Bella Coola art. These included fabulous masks, totem poles, house frontal poles with entrance through a gaping mouth. The artists also created Petroglyphs and Pictograms.
Bella Coola Totem Poles
The Bella Coola erected Totem Poles made by carving and painting vertical logs. Totem Poles symbolized guardian spirits who watched over the family, clan, or tribe. The Bella Coola tribe used the "Southern Style" of Totem Poles that included impressive thunderbirds using an intricate color scheme favoring black, red, green, and yellow, white and turquoise colors. For additional facts and information refer to Totem Poles.
What transportation did the Bella Coola use? Dugout Canoes
The Bella Coola tribe used dugout canoes made from the from hollowed-out logs of cedar trees. The Bella Coola men hollowed logs and used a steaming technique to soften the timber so they could carve and shape their canoe. The ornate bow and stern pieces were carved and added separately. The dugout canoe was perfect for travel along fast streams and shallow waters and were sturdy enough for the rough waters of the Bella Coola River that flowed westward to the Pacific Ocean. The Bella Coola used several different types of canoes, including long, narrow canoes of a single red cedar log for rivers and bigger types of seagoing canoes that were often decorated with crest designs or painted black.
What food did the Bella Coola tribe eat?
The food that the Bella Coola tribe ate included their staple diet of fish supplemented by wapato (Indian Potato) greens, seeds and berries. The women also pressed the rich oil from the eulachon (candlefish) and used large amounts of this oil as a dip for their food.
What weapons did the Bella Coola use?
The weapons used by the Bella Coola included bows and arrows, blowguns, clubs and spears. The also used shields made from the hide of the moose and wore wood armor used a form of defensive clothing called a clamon which was like a breastplate made from hardened moose hide and cedar bark and was designed to protect the wearer from arrow fire.
What clothes did the Bella Coola wear?
The clothes worn by the Bella Coola were the same as those worn by the Chinook Tribe - please refer to this article for comprehensive information about clothing.
What was the religion and beliefs of the Bella Coola tribe?
The Bella Coola believed that there were five worlds, located one above the other. The middle world was their own world, the earth. Above earth were two upper worlds, one the home of 'Our Woman - Afraid of Nothing', and the one below that was the 'House of the Sun'. Two lower worlds were below earth. The first world was called the 'Ghost Land' and the second was the home of those Bella Coola who die a second time. The upper heaven, the home of "Our Woman" or Afraid of Nothing was envisioned as a prairie without any trees in it. In order to reach it, the Bella Coola must pass through the House of the Sun.
The house of Afraid of Nothing stands in the far east. A strong wind blows always toward it across the open prairie so that everything rolls to her house. However, immediately around the house it was always quite calm. In front of the house stood a totem post in the shape of a large winged monster whose mouth was the entrance. The Bella Coola believed that Afraid of Nothing, "Our Woman", created the whole world. She fought a great war with the mountains and defeated them. She made them much smaller than they used to be. During this fight she broke off the nose of one mountain, and its face may be recognized even now. The mountain is near the Bella Coola River. The Bella Coola believe that Afraid of Nothing visits the earth now and then; but when she does, her visits cause sickness and death.