Bella Coola were one of the tribes of Northwest
Indians who erected
Totem poles were carved with animals that
symbolized their guardian spirits. The names of
other tribes who made Totem Poles included the
Facts about the Bella Coola Native Indian
This article contains fast, fun facts and
interesting information about the Bella Coola Native
American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions
did the Bella Coola tribe live, what clothes did they wear
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
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
Land: Tall dense forests, oceans, mountains
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
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
of the plank houses and doorways were adorned
with pole carvings of totems that illustrated
the dwellers clan, history or mythology.
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
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
Bella Coola Totem Poles
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
What transportation did the Bella Coola use?
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?
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 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.